The NFL enforces strict rules on players’ game-time cleats. Per league regulation, players are required to wear team color-designated cleats during games, restricting their creativity and individuality. Even personal messages written on the cleats must be approved before a player can set foot onto the field. The NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats campaign gives players a three-week break from the monotony of uniformity while providing them with an opportunity to give back to the community through a charitable cause of their choice.
This 2018 NFL season, the campaign’s third year in effect, over 800 players will be participating, representing hundreds of different charitable organizations.
For NFL games during Weeks 13-15 of the season, each NFL team designated one game as its My Cause, My Cleats game, in which players will wear customized cleats that reflect their commitment to pre-approved charitable causes. Players and teams work directly with local customizers and even large companies like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour to design their cleats. Players also have the opportunity to auction their customized cleats at NFL auction, where 100 percent of the funds raised are donated towards charities selected by the players.
While the My Cause, My Cleats campaign encourages individuality in imagining unique, creative cleat designs, it promotes unity by encouraging players and teams to collectively think of and raise awareness and money for something bigger than themselves. In a time when it seems as if the human race is divided by almost every social matter imaginable, seeing NFL players unite for a greater good through several different causes is a refreshing and much needed reminder that the world is in constant need of help. The My Cause, My Cleats campaign is a simple but effective means of facilitating that help.
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Early last month the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) moved to decertify USA Gymnastics as a national governing body. In an open letter to all USAG gymnasts and the U.S. gymnastics community, CEO Sarah Hirshland said that the USOC will take over managing the gymnastics team.
“[E]veryone now faces the difficult reality of belonging to a national organization that continues to struggle to change its culture, to rebuild its leadership and to effectively serve its membership,” Hirshland wrote. “You deserve better.”
Hirshland was referring to several instances of the USAG’s moral ineptitude during and following the sentencing of former team doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting over 265 victims. Disgraced former USAG President Steve Penny resigned amid the fallout of the molestation scandal and was also arrested for tampering with evidence in the Nassar case. USAG CEO Kerry Perry was also forced out of her job in September in response to the years of sexual assault that led to the loss of key corporate sponsorship. Furthermore, her replacement Mary Bono stepped down only five days after being appointed after posting an Anti-Nike tweet about the company’s Colin Kaepernick ad.
In response to a tweet announcing the revocation of USAG’s status as a national governing body, Rachel Denhollander, the first gymnast to accuse Nassar of abuse, wrote, “THANK YOU… [I]t is high time for this organization to end and a new one, truly dedicated to athlete safety to begin. A COMPLETE regimen change should start now. This is for every survivor.”
Hirshland and Denhollander are both correct—the USAG gymnasts deserve better, and it’s about time that the proper action take place in creating a safe environment for the athletes. The USOC’s decision sends a clear message against abuse. As the USAG struggles to change its culture, starting anew under USOC management cannot erase the pain caused at the hands of Nassar and those who turned a blind eye to his abuse, but it represents a step toward rebuilding an organization that serves its members first and foremost. Though the path to follow USAG’s decertification is still unclear, the U.S. gymnastics community can expect a much-needed, long-awaited change for its future.
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Three-time NBA Champion Stephen Curry sprung to action upon receiving a letter from Riley Morrison, a 9-year-old girl who was starting a new basketball season and wanted to know why his signature shoe, the Curry 5, wasn’t available in the girls’ section of Under Armour’s website. In her letter, Morrison pointed out how the shoes were, however, available under the boys’ section, even with a customization option. “I know you support girl athletes because you have two daughters and you host an all-girls basketball camp,” Morrison wrote, “I hope you can work with Under Armour to change this because girls want to rock the Curry 5’s too.”
Curry could have easily ignored the letter or put off responding until after the season, but he immediately wrote back, explaining that the smaller sizes of his shoe were labeled as “boys” on the website and that he and Under Armour were fixing the issue immediately. Additionally, he sent Morrison a pair of Curry 5’s, promised her a pair of the Curry 6’s when they release and invited her to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th with him in Oakland.
Back in August, Curry penned an op-ed letter in The Player’s Tribune entitled “This Is Personal,” which emphasized his desire for his daughters to “grow up knowing that there are no boundaries that can be placed on their futures.” His swift action in communicating with Under Armour to rebrand the smaller sizes of his shoe as “Grade School UA Curry 5” instead of “Boys UA Curry 5” showed his sincerity behind that wish.
Curry went above and beyond to show his fan that he does believe that basketball is for everybody. Both his and Under Armour’s urgent responses set an example for other companies to be more inclusive in a world that still needs work in doing the same.
Six-time NBA Champion and Finals MVP Michael Jordan announced early last month that he will be donating all of his proceeds from his upcoming ESPN Films and Netflix documentary series “The Last Dance” to Friends of the Children, a national nonprofit organization that pairs youth born into poverty with a salaried, professional mentor for their entire childhood, from kindergarten through their high school graduation. The donation, a multimillion-dollar investment, will help Friends of the Children expand its campaign to 25 cities by 2025 to empower more youth against the risks of dropping out of school, substance abuse, incarceration and teen parenting.
Jordan’s generosity towards the mentorship program was inspired by his gratitude for this own mentors, specifically his father and his college coach, Dean Smith, who changed his life. “What stood out to me about Friends of the Children was that they… commit to every child for 12 ½ years,” Jordan explains. “That dedication is important to me. My mentors believed in me and taught me the power of perseverance. I want youth in Friends of the Children to see that they have the same potential.”
With Jordan’s multimillion-dollar investment in Friends of the Children is an investment in the nation’s future. His efforts in empowering the youth through mentorship aid in breaking the cycle of generational poverty and give them hope to become more than cards they were dealt.
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Super Bowl LII Champion Zach Ertz and his wife, 2017 US World Cup Soccer Champion Julie Ertz, gave back to the greater Philadelphia area by hosting the City of Love Event and Auction Fundraiser Sponsored by Zebra Technologies on November 29th at Lincoln Financial Field. The event featured food, wine, entertainment and a live, silent auction that gave their teammates, fans, companies and supporters an opportunity to win authentic sports memorabilia and unforgettable experiences.
In the spirit of thanksgiving and the holiday season, the couple decided to host the event to celebrate and return the love and support that the Philadelphia community has shown them over the years. Proceeds from the gala will help fund the Ertz Family Foundation’s “City of Love Fund,” a grant-making program intended to support local Philadelphia and surrounding area charities that serve youth sports, education and family. The “City of Love Fund” is also benefitting from Zach’s Catches for the Community campaign, in which he pledged $100 for every catch he has this 2018 NFL season.
Zach and Julie launched the Ertz Family Foundation in the summer after a life-changing visit to the impoverished country of Haiti. The trip helped the couple realize that their dream was to change others’ lives together through faith, hope and love. The foundation’s launch event was a gala in Northern California, a region close to their hearts as they both attended college in the Bay Area, that raised $200,000 to build a sports complex in Haiti and support College Is Real charities in the Bay Area and Philadelphia.
With the help of Zebra Technologies, Eagles Charitable Foundation, Philadelphia 76ers, and all of the City of Love Event’s sponsors, Zach and Julie were able to, once again, give back to the communities that have loyally supported them. The Ertz couple’s unfailing generosity is an admirable example of two people using their platform and resources to better the world.
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