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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From October 26th through November 1st, eBay and NASCAR launched their first joint charity sale giving fans a chance to bid on 20 items, including a chance to see the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a VIP experience at the 2019 Daytona 500, autographed memorabilia by NASCAR legends, meet and greets, coveted racing experiences and more.
All proceeds from each item will go towards the NASCAR Foundation’s programs for children. The foundation is dedicated to giving every child a chance at a healthy life and the opportunity “to get across the finish line” by providing healthcare services to children across the US.
Through eBay and NASCAR’s charity sale, NASCAR fans have the opportunity to show their allegiance to their favorite drivers while supporting a cause that positively impacts the racing community’s next generation of fans. NASCAR set an example for other professional sports leagues to help those in need by providing its fans a platform to do so as well.
On October 25th, Soccer Aid for Unicef announced that its 2018 campaign raised a record-breaking total of £6,746,557. All of the money will be going towards protecting children in danger around the world. Soccer Aid for Unicef has been raising money to keep kids safe for 12 years and has raised over £30 million in that time. According to Unicef UK Executive Director Mike Penrose, the 2018 campaign made “twice the difference for children in danger.” The UK Government and celebrities like Michael Sheen, Usain Bolt and Olly Murs matched the public donations pound-for-pound.
Supporters from all over the world came to the soccer match at Old Trafford, contributing greatly to the record-breaking amount of funds raised for the cause. Fans saw Unicef UK Ambassador Robbie Williams’s England team, led by Olly Murs, play against Soccer Aid World XI captained by Olympic medalist and arguably the fastest man on the planet, Usain Bolt. Former professional footballer and Manchester United legend Eric Cantona also came out of retirement for the cause to play in an exciting, sold-out match ending with England’s win over World XI in sudden death. Soccer Aid for Unicef also announced that next year’s soccer match in June 2019 will take place at Stamford Bridge, which is the first time the game will be played at Chelsea.
Soccer Aid’s long-term and substantial efforts continually create better lives for children around the world. The record-breaking fundraising total is a testament to the generosity of the British public and soccer fans who come from all over the world to show their support.
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After placing second in Epic Games’ Fortnite Pro Am alongside pro gamer CourageJD, Brooklyn Nets forward Kenneth Faried used his $250,000 prize money for charity to launch his foundation, Kenneth Faried HAT. HAT, an acronym for Humble, Appreciative and Thankful, is a foundation dedicated to teach kids how to attain and maintain a positive mindset during both trial and success through the fundamentals of basketball, teamwork and respect. Faried believes that staying humble, appreciative and thankful through life’s obstacles, despite one’s achievements, is the key to leadership. He hopes that his foundation will help kids become good leaders through sport.
Faried has always been interested in technology and actually wanted to pursue a degree in Computer Science and Information Systems (CSIS). According to Faried, college basketball was harder than professional basketball, and his demanding schedule made it difficult for him to keep up with the coding. He got into gaming because of his parents, who were both gamers. His father and mother both have their own TVs beside their beds, each with an Xbox One. Whenever a new system drops, all three of them will get it to play their respective games. For Faried, all the times his parents told him to “play your game and get out of my room” paid off with Fortnite.
Faried is one of many pro athletes who have invested their time, money and talents into esports, a rapidly growing industry of competitive video gaming. He used his passion for technology to create a foundation that empowers the youth to be future leaders in the community. Faried found a way to use his on- and off-court talents to better the world by investing in its future—today’s children.
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Earlier last month the Allstate Foundation debuted a new video entitled “Invisible Weapon” to kick off the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse Challenge, an annual fundraiser, running from October 2nd to October 31st, that provides financial empowerment services to 300 U.S. nonprofit organizations serving domestic violence survivors. The video, featuring tennis champion and the program’s ambassador Serena Williams, called for urgent support for domestic violence survivors. Williams’ powerful narrative exposed the hidden challenges that domestic violence victims face by explaining how abusive relationships are not always physical. She speaks about “abuse you can’t see,” referring to financial abuse as an invisible weapon.
Financial abuse, which involves controlling the victim’s access and use of financial resources, happens in 99 percent of domestic violence cases. However, a 2018 national survey conducted by the Allstate Foundation found that about 50 percent of respondents are unaware that financial abuse is a form of domestic violence. The invisible weapon of financial abuse is the reason why many victims are unable to leave their toxic relationships.
Williams, who also designed a purple handbag for the Purple Purse Challenge, has helped raise millions of dollars for local domestic nonprofits. Though she has always cared for women’s issues like equality and domestic violence, her drive behind the cause has amplified over the past year because of her one-year-old daughter Olympia. Williams said that, as she works with Purple Purse and watched Dr. Christine Ford’s televised testimony against Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh in early October, she could not help but think of her daughter and the injustices she could face as a woman later in life.
Williams’s efforts in the fight for every woman through her broad platform inspires others to shine light on taboo and uncomfortable topics. Her love for her daughter has only made her a more ardent advocate for those who need it.
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In light of World Mental Health Day 2018 that took place on October 10th, Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star forward Kevin Love donated a year-long subscription of Headspace—an app dedicated to guiding users in meditation and mindfulness—to his alma mater UCLA’s student athletes and coaches. He has also announced his partnership with Shick Hydro on “Locker Room Talk,” a web series that will document candid conversations with other professional athletes to shine a light on masculinity issues faced by all men. With no topic off limits, Love believes that “Locker Room Talk” is an important step in his own personal development with a natural progression towards a broader platform for his cause against stigmas around mental health. The series’ first episode on November 5th featured 23-time gold medal winner Michael Phelps.
Love has fervently embraced his advocacy role for mental health awareness since November 2017, when he experienced a panic attack during a game against the Atlanta Hawks. He opened up to the public about his long-term battle with anxiety and depression in a penned op-ed article in the Players’ Tribune entitled “ Everyone is Going Through Something.” He has since been nothing short of a determined advocate to end the stigma around mental health issues. He started the Kevin Love Fund, a foundation dedicated to inspiring people to live their healthiest lives by encouraging physical and emotional well-being.
Love describes his role in mental health awareness as his “life’s work” and is determined to continue advocating for those suffering with mental health issues well after his basketball career. Many people assume that, as a professional athlete, his struggle with depression is invalid as his fame and money can get him anything in the world. Love’s vulnerability, openness and honesty has been tremendous in inspiring all people, regardless of social standing or tax bracket, to seek help in their fight against mental health issues. His bravery despite his initial fear of embarrassment has gotten him the help he needs and encourages others to do the same.
Carolina Panthers star defensive end Julius Peppers had been on an eight-month hiatus from the media until Friday, September 21st when he announced the launch of the Julius Peppers Hurricane Relief Fund at the Foundation For The Carolinas. The nine-time Pro Bowler established the fund to aid in the rebuilding process in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, a massive storm that has claimed 43 lives, caused an estimated $50 billion in tentative damage estimates and is unfortunately still tormenting the coastal Carolinas.
Peppers, an Eastern Carolina native who also played football and basketball at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, saw photos and videos of the hurricane’s damage and sprung to action. Although his friends and family in Bailey, N.C. were able to escape the storm, seeing its effects on the surrounding areas of his home inspired Peppers to use his platform to help.
Peppers donated $100,000 to kick off the fund and called on the community, other NFL players and especially his teammates to get involved as well. He believes that the Carolina Panthers’ fans have given so much to the team through their loyalty, so it was time that the players return the favor and support them during this difficult time. Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson and tight end Chris Manhertz have both shown their prompt support by pledging so far.
Though a future Hall of Famer who has accomplished so much on the field, Peppers is not one for the spotlight. Team officials said that his stance with the media is that he will talk only when he felt like he had something to say. As a man of few words, his break in silence emphasized the urgency of the hurricane’s relief efforts and his personal duty to use his platform as a professional athlete for social good. Peppers is an inspiration and example for other athletes to do more than just play their respective sports and be the change that their communities need.