This week Major League Soccer (MLS) unveiled MLS Unites, a league-wide platform launched in partnership with the MLS Player Association. The new initiative highlights all the efforts that the players, coaches, the clubs and the league are making to address the important messages and programs taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Bringing together our Major League Soccer community, all while staying apart, is the spirit of ‘MLS Unites,’” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “During this challenging moment in history, I know we can count on the MLS family to come together when we need each other most.”
MLS Unites consists of a series of programs that educates and informs fans of the importance of key health and safety messaging, provides fun and engaging content featuring MLS players to keep fans connected, and celebrates community heroes fighting on the frontlines of the pandemic.
MLS is consulting regularly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health Canada (HC), infectious disease specialists and other public health entities to receive and share the most updated information on COVID-19. The league created an essential guide on how to prevent the spread, manage mental health and cope with stress during social distancing and support relief efforts. Additionally, the league is leveraging technology to bring the soccer community together through an enhanced fan engagement plan featuring dynamic programming and new content, like player chats and live-at home workouts. MLS is also using the hashtag #MLSUnites to feature select stories shared by clubs, players and fans about members of the community helping their fellow citizens during these unprecedented times.
Why We Like It:
MLS Unites is an inspiring way to unite, inform and engage the Major League Soccer community during such difficult times. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives, and no one could have seen it coming. We are all adjusting to the shift in our daily lives at the hands of the outbreak. As social beings, having to physically distance ourselves from our support systems can take a toll on our mental and emotional health. MLS Unites helps keep spirits up with its entertaining content while reminding fans that we are all in this together. Something as small as seeing their favorite players in good spirits despite this difficult time can make a difference on fans’ approach to the day, which can in turn help them be a light for someone else who may need it.
With over 1.25 million confirmed cases and 69,000 deaths worldwide to date, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. The spread of the disease is particularly stressful for healthcare providers who man our frontlines, working long, understaffed shifts as they risk their physical, mental and emotional health caring for others. Thanks to the outstanding efforts and sacrifices of these everyday heroes, more than 260,000 confirmed COVID-19 patients have recovered, but no one knows how much longer these unprecedented times will last. As the war wages on, healthcare workers’ dwindling supply of personal protective equipment to prevent exposure to the virus has been a topic of great concern—how can we continue to keep our doctors and nurses safe?
In response to the shortage, sport suppliers around the world have shifted the focus of their production factories away from athletic gear to produce much-needed masks, gowns and ventilators to supply hospitals with the means to protect our medical heroes. Bauer, a U.S.-based company that manufactures hockey gear, announced last week that it is shifting from making helmet visors to mass producing medical visors with face shields for those fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Their first 100,000 devices are ready for distribution and expected to first go to healthcare professionals in Canada, then the United States.
American sports merchandiser Fanatics, the top provider of MLB hats and jerseys, also announced last week that it will be using the material that the company has on hand to create masks and gowns out of its factory in Easton, Pennsylvania. Fanatics has completely halted production on anything other than the masks and gowns to focus on plans to make one million of each to be donated and distributed across Pennsylvania and, eventually, New York and New Jersey.
A collective of U.K.-based Formula 1 teams, engine manufacturers and their respective technology arms is evaluating support in producing respiratory ventilators in response to the U.K. Government’s call for assistance against the coronavirus pandemic. Specialized in expert design and technology, rapid prototyping and high-value manufacturing, they are working in collaboration with the U.K. Government and other organizations to evaluate and produce medical devices for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Why We Like It:
Every day, healthcare professionals all over the world are collectively suiting up as soldiers on the frontlines in this war against the COVID-19 pandemic. In China, an estimated 3,000 healthcare workers have been infected by the coronavirus, and at least 22 have lost their lives.
In Northern Italy, 1 in 5 healthcare professionals has become infected, and over 50 of Italy’s doctors have been confirmed dead. Many fear that the United States is headed in the same direction as we lost our first physicians and nurses to COVID-19 two weeks ago.
As their direct contact with infected patients has exponentially increased over the past few weeks, it is our civil duty to do what we can to help healthcare professionals as much as possible. For most of us, that duty is to stay at home and practice social distancing to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. Sport suppliers like Bauer, Fanatics and Formula 1 are fine examples of how entities in the sport business community are doing their part in looking out for those who look out for us.
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Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike is currently serving as president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA). Since becoming the WNBA’s Madam President in 2016, Ogwumike’s leadership has charted a new legacy for women in sports. Ogwumike represents her current and future contemporaries by fighting to give players a fair share of league revenue. When comparing average NBA salaries for men to the women of the WNBA, the pay gap shows the lack of women’s economic security.
Four years after Ogwumike’s election as President, the WNBA and WNBPA announced that they have agreed on a new eight-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The agreement highlights significant increase in player salary and compensation, benefits, and an integrated marketing plan for all teams. This agreement will triple the maximum player compensation when comparing the previous deal due to the new 50-50 revenue sharing pact. Current top players will now be able to earn north of $500,000 while $200,000 for other lower top-tier players. Players will receive full salary will on maternity leave. Travel and offseason opportunities are featured enhancements highlighted by the CBA.
Why We Like It:
Nneka Ogwumike sought out to fight the status quo of the WNBA. Her leadership lead her to working diligently with other league leaders to reduce such a large pay gap. With such an investment by the WNBA, this new agreement will ensure that its players and the league itself will thrive. Through additional cash compensations, travel quality enhancements, and motherhood and family planning outlets, the league has backed its players and is now showing little girls and young women who play the game that its league is headed for a great future.
Five-year NBA vet, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson started the Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Foundation with the goal of helping students with the least available resources reach new heights through cutting-edge educational strategies and mental health awareness. With the focus of exposing students to coding and other technological fields, Hollis-Jefferson wants to provide an outlet for students that is not sports related. Hollis-Jefferson’s foundation’s main objective is to launch a nonprofit Charter School in his hometown of Chester, Pennsylvania.
Through building the foundation, Hollis-Jefferson is now in the process of launching his C.H.A.P Charter School. Hollis-Jefferson and his C.H.A.P. (Calm, Humble, and Patient) leadership team have applied to the local Chester school district to form the school with a plan to enroll fifth to eighth grade students by next fall. Start-up costs for the school will come from Hollis-Jefferson’s foundation, ensuring that students will be provided an innovative learning experience that will propel them towards success.
Why We Like It:
For the youth of Chester, Pennsylvania, educational resources and mental health development needs attention and care. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is providing that affection through the purpose of the C.H.A.P. Charter School. The school will seek to expose students to a new and refreshing educational curriculum. Providing a pathway for success for future students is inspiring, and with his charter school on the way, Hollis-Jefferson will be responsible for establishing a new wave of an enlightened youth coming out of the city of Chester, Pennsylvania.
The V Foundation for Cancer Research, a local nonprofit, was represented at The Dolphins Cancer Challenge (DCC) celebrity golf tournament on Feb. 14. The golf tournament offered cancer fighters a chance to golf and interact with Miami Dolphins executives, players, alumni and other celebrity guests. To kick off the tournament, the V Foundation announced it would award a $200,000 grant to support an early career investigator at Sylvester Cancer Center.
On the heels of the golf tournament, DCC executed its 10th annual Dolphins Cancer Challenge, which is a fitness event that benefits cancer research at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Over 6,000 participants biked, ran, walked and volunteered in the event, which took place this February 29, 2020.
This event is a true partnership between nonprofits, the Miami Dolphins and key members of the Miami community. As it continues to expand, it shows the importance of using sports as a platform to raise money and awareness for social issues and causes. In the case of the DCC, the organization and the team are intertwined and continue to create impact in the cancer space over the past decade.
After spending the last nine years in Houston, cornerback Kareem Jackson is settling into his new home in Denver as a member of the Broncos while building a new home for his foundation. The former Houston Texan and his foundation recently hosted their third annual “Dinner for a Difference” fundraiser in Denver. The evening included a cocktail reception, dinner, and a silent auction, raising $125,000 to the Kareem Jackson Foundation and its signature “Pretty in Pink Night” and “Christmas in July” programs.
Established in 2017, the Kareem Jackson Foundation aims to provide a sense of comfort, joy and strength to those experiencing the same struggles that his family has faced. With his older sister being a survivor of childhood leukemia, and his mother having been diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after his sister’s illness, Jackson has made it his mission to serve seriously and chronically ill children and their families as well as breast cancer survivors. “For me, it’s just all about being able to touch these families that went through the same thing that me and my family went through,” Jackson explained. “Whether it’s a kid going through some sort of cancer or a woman dealing with breast cancer.”
Why We Like It:
As the ten-year vet continues to put his stamp on the football field, Kareem Jackson is furthering his legacy through his devotion to help families. Helping the lives of financially disadvantaged women and children, Jackson’s foundation uses its programs to provided much-needed support. Jackson has decided to be there for others combating the same struggles that he and his family experienced with his mother. Just as Jackson covers deep threats and provides a safety blanket for his team, he is doing the same for all of the families who have found support through his foundation.
Early last month, Serena Williams won her first singles title in three years. Her ASB Classic victory against American tennis player Jessica Pegula marks her 73rd championship title and first title since the birth of her daughter Olympia in 2017. At 38 years old, Williams has now held titles in four decades.
As impressive as her accomplishment already was, the tennis icon took it a step further and decided to donate all $43,000 of her prize money to Australian bushfire relief efforts. “I’ve been playing in Australia for over 20 years, and it’s been really hard for me to watch all the news and everything that’s been happening in Australia with all the fires and over a billion animals and people who have lost their homes,” said Williams. “So I decided that I would donate all my prize money for a great cause.”
Since the start of one of Australia’s worst fire seasons on record, the tragic wildfires have claimed 33 human lives, destroyed thousands of homes and depleted over 1 billion animals. More than 11 million hectares of land have been scorched. Williams’s generous donation contributes to those of a long list of celebrities who have also shown their support of Australian relief efforts, including Elton John, Pink, Kylie Jenner, Chris Hemsworth and Lizzo.
Why We Like It:
Starting the decade off with an impressive win in her singles final at the ASB Classic, one would assume that fans and lifelong supporters could not be prouder of Serena Williams after clinching her newest title. However, her admirable decision to donate all of her prize money to help support victims of the devastating Australian bushfires reminds the world that she is not just an amazing athlete. She’s a phenomenal human being. Williams has a strong connection to Australia after playing there for over twenty years. Donating her prize money to help those who have lost their homes and help prevent further animal loss is surely a great cause.
by Frances Esguerra
Retired San Antonio Spurs legend David Robinson is helping to raise $50 million for a new investment fund designed to help develop struggling Texan neighborhoods. His partnership with Blueprint Local aims to strengthen economically-depressed communities by injecting capital into “Opportunity Zones.”
Opportunity Zones is a federal tax provision established under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that offers investors preferential tax treatment on investments in designated distressed communities. Robinson and Blueprint Local’s goal is to use capital as a tool to boost local economies in neglected neighborhoods.
“It’s an opportunity,” Robinson explains, “to invest locally and build communities without taking that money out of the communities, whereas somebody who builds a Home Depot or a new hotel or something, that money might go back to New York. What we’re doing is trying to keep a lot of that money in the communities.”
The 10-time NBA All-Star and two-time NBA champion is also the founder of Admiral Capital Group, a real estate and private equity firm with a strong commitment to inclusive community development focused on a improving education and creating positive social impact. Robinson is also co-founder of Carver Academy, a faith-based private school that serves over 10,000 students from pre-K through 6th grade, all coming from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. With 24 charter schools already, he aims to open 40 schools within the next four years.
Why We Like It:
Well after his impressive basketball career that includes helping San Antonio win two NBA championships, David Robinson is still making an impact on Texas for the better. A successful investor and philanthropist with a long history of giving back to Texan communities, the Hall of Famer’s outstanding charitable efforts has made “The Admiral” an admirable figure in the community and an inspiration to numerous other pro-athlete impact investors, including Shane Battier, Tony Parker and Zach Ertz, who have shown their support for Admiral Capital Group. David Robinson leads by example in using his platform and resources to help facilitate positive social impact for his local communities.
by Frances Esguerra
Global health nonprofit TackleAfrica recently celebrated a milestone of having conducted 10,000 HIV tests across all of their football programs in eleven African countries. Young people and their communities have been able to access this crucial service voluntarily 10,000 times since its founders decided to introduce free and confidential HIV testing at the charity’s football sessions and tournaments in 2015.
In 2007, TackleAfrica developed a unique way of combining HIV education directly into football coaching drills and now trains African football coaches, games teachers and community leaders in using these fun, interactive drills for young people in their football clubs and communities. The charity has grown to work regularly with local partners in six African countries to reach over 20,000 young people each year.
Founded in May 2002 by a group of young people from the UK, TackleAfrica’s programs focused on HIV education, but now their coaches are trained to deliver information and services on a wide range of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights issues to help end the HIV epidemic, including contraception, family-planning, Gender-Based Violence (GBV), Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), child marriage and girls’ empowerment.
Why We Like It:
TackleAfrica uses football as a means of bringing people together and a platform from which to convey crucial messages about HIV and AIDS. The charity’s decision to introduce free and confidential HIV testing and counseling at its football tournaments has helped over 20,000 young people yearly since 2015. For many TackleAfrica players, the charity’s football tournaments are the first time they get tested.
Its football programs creates an environment that minimizes the fear of walking into a clinic and being seen by a doctor in a white coat. With youth-friendly, casually-dressed counselors and test administrators that were trained and approved by the Ministry of Health, young people can feel as comfortable as possible being tested without judgment or prejudice. Oftentimes teammates would test at the same time, making it easier to take that first step into what can be a terrifying moment.
TackleAfrica recognized the potential of football and used its popularity to better lives across an entire continent.
by Frances Esguerra
Led by Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and rapper Meek Mill at the invitation of Mayor Jim Kenney, the NFL Player’s Coalition hosted a town hall meeting early this month to discuss criminal justice in Philadelphia ahead of the hiring of the city’s next commissioner. The main topic of conversation at this town hall were the dynamics between residents and law enforcement amid the recent resignation of Philadelphia’s Police Department Commissioner Richard Ross. Ross stepped down from his position in light of allegations that members of his department engaged in sexual harassment and racial and gender discrimination against two women serving in the ranks.
Jenkins and Mill hope to bridge the relationship between residents and law enforcement, a gap that seemed to widen amidst the allegations against the PPD. “This is the time we need to use our voices the loudest and make sure that we hold [the mayor] accountable to what we want,” Jenkins stated, “and that this new person is going to come in and make a cultural shift.”
This is just one example of NFL Players’ Coalition’s on-going efforts in social justice. The Coalition has taken up several initiatives in various markets in hopes positively influencing social justice reform. About a week ago Jenkins and the Coalition also partnered with Roc Nation to launch the first public service announcement of the Responsibility Program, which will include a series of announcements focused on parents whose children were victims of police brutality and gun violence.
Why We Like It:
Malcolm Jenkins and Meek Mill are using their platform to encourage social change for the better. As two people who call Philadelphia home, they are making an effort to hold their neighborhoods’ leadership accountable. Their willingness to speak to the public and encourage discussion on difficult topics is admirable and necessary for positive change. Similarly, the Players’ Coalition, co-founded by Jenkins, is an excellent example of influential individuals joining forces to make an impact. Together, this group of motivated ambassadors can reach their common goal more efficiently as they all do their part in holding each other and their hometowns accountable.