It’s no surprise that NFL players have become more active off the field in recent years. Whether it’s because of the political unrest in our country or the rise in social activism spearheaded by Colin Kaepernick, there has been a significant uptick in community engagement from all teams up and down the roster. The most prestigious award an NFL player can receive off the field is the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. It recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field.
Chris Long received the 2019 award from JJ Watt, last year’s recipient, at NFL Honors in Atlanta. He said, “I am honored to be named the 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year and to join the long line of men who have received this prestigious honor. While I am officially accepting this award, we would not be able to accomplish our goals without the support and participation of countless other individuals. I am humbled by the support we have received from my peers who have donated to our various matching-campaigns, the commitment and perseverance displayed by the veterans who have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with me each year, and the generosity of our fans who have made vital contributions to our foundation over the years.” He continued, “I am incredibly thankful that football has provided me with a platform to give back and I am proud that so many of my colleagues have decided to use this stage to create positive and impactful change in our local communities and around the world."
According to the NFL and the Chris Long Foundation, his primary service initiative is rooted through the Chris Long Foundation, which aims to fulfill three philanthropic causes: clean water, military appreciation and youth education.
Long's main initiative is Waterboys, which according to its site is “a program that puts professional athletes and sports fans on the same team in pursuit of bringing life-sustaining drinking water to communities in need.” Long had a goal of building 32 clean water wells, one for each NFL team. By February of 2018, that goal was met. Now, Long has set a goal of providing clean water to one million people. To date, Waterboys has raised more than $3 million and has funded 55 wells that will provide water to 211,000 people according to the league offices.
By Frankie Esguerra
Multinational sports brand PUMA recently announced the release of its new Clyde Court #REFORM basketball shoe, which was inspired by Olympian Tommie Smith’s activism for universal equality and award-winning hip-hop artist Meek Mill’s advocacy to reform the U.S. criminal justice system. The shoe released with the launch of the REFORM Alliance, a foundation led by Mill that is dedicated to improving criminal justice reform and eliminating laws and policies that maintain injustice in the U.S. As the exclusive brand partner of the REFORM Alliance, PUMA is donating 100% of the net proceeds from the sale of the Clyde Court #REFORM to the organization and donating $5,000 in the name of each professional athlete who supports the movement by wearing the shoe starting on January 24th.
The Clyde Court #REFORM shoes’ black color represents the American prison system. The red “#Reform” message on the bottom of the shoe represents the blood and sacrifice of those who have fought and continue to fight for justice. The gold accents represent future victories. Because the NBA lifted its restriction on shoe colorways for this season, players like DeMarcus Cousins and Deandre Ayton were able to advocate for the cause as they wear the sneakers in games.
Mill’s foundation was inspired by his own experience with the criminal justice system. In November 2017 he was sentenced to two to four years in prison for popping wheelies on his dirt bike and getting into a fight earlier that year, arrests that violated his probation from a 2008 gun and drug case. His controversial probation violation sent the sports and music worlds into outrage to rally behind the issue of social injustice.
Mill is joined by Kraft Group CEO and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft; Philadelphia 76ers co-owner and Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin; Brooklyn Nets co-owner and philanthropic investor Clara Wu Tsai; and entrepreneur, business mogul and PUMA Basketball Creative Director Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter. Together they are working towards removing one million people from the criminal justice system within five years.
The Clyde Court #REFORM basketball shoe continues the mission of PUMA #REFORM, the brand’s four-month-old social justice platform that enables PUMA ambassadors in the sport, music and entertainment worlds to advocate for social justice issues and promote an agenda for change.
Why We Like It:
We appreciate PUMA’s efforts in combating injustice in the U.S. With the brand’s mission to be “forever faster,” its decision to unite people and inspire social change through some of the world’s most influential people—popular figures in the sports, music and entertainment industries—is a genius way of reaching many in a short amount of time, the same way that Meek Mill’s controversial probation violation did. Sport has the ability to unite people and push culture forward in a positive way. PUMA’s generous contribution to the REFORM Alliance aligns with its mission to bring about change “forever faster,” a concept that other global brands can emulate to make a difference through a philanthropic cause that aligns with their brands as well.
How It Can Be Improved:
The cause against social injustice can benefit from increased marketing through a series of short videos of PUMA ambassadors and Reform Alliance founders and supporters explaining their personal stories and reasons for supporting #REFORM. It would not only increase product awareness but also expand the reach and capacity of that reach to potential supporters. As influential as sports, music and entertainment figures are in today’s world, providing them with a platform to speak to the masses about how they feel about the cause and why it’s so important to get involved could be tremendous in promoting Reform Alliance and invoking the social change that the U.S. criminal justice system needs.
Philanthropy Playmakers is a sports philanthropy consulting firm that advises non-profits, athletes and foundations. Our core competencies include fundraising strategy, strategic planning, marketing, and communications at the intersection of sports and philanthropy. To learn more, contact us.