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Sports stars rally to give back to humanity during pandemic

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The response from the world’s most prominent sporting celebrities has been powerful.

DONALD Trump may have been in denial about the seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic but America’s elite athletes have been at the forefront of recognising the destruction of the virus and in actioning plans to ease the financial and social hardships of many among their fan base.

The players, regardless of sporting code, have united in cash donations, food supplies and the purchase of medical equipment. Many, along with their respective clubs, have launched funds to support those financially less fortunate.

Elsewhere the response from the world’s most prominent sporting celebrities has been as powerful, with Swiss tennis great Roger Federer and his wife Mirka donating $1 million for the most vulnerable families in Switzerland.

Federer, using his social media platforms that speak to millions of followers, wrote: “These are challenging times for everyone and nobody should be left behind. Our contribution is just a start and we hope that others join in supporting more families in need. Together we can overcome this crisis.”

Federer, with 20 Grand Slam titles, is one of the most influential global sporting voices, and many of the biggest names in sport haven’t hesitated to confirm their commitment to help those in need.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Juventus’s Cristiano Ronaldo also donated $1m respectively to the fight against Covid-19. Messi and his Barcelona teammates also agreed to 70% pay cuts at this time, so as to subsidise the salaries of permanent employees at the club.

Messi’s donation reportedly went to the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona for the specific treatment of victims of the pandemic and also the researching of the virus.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Juventus’s Cristiano Ronaldo also donated $1m respectively to the fight against Covid-19. Messi and his Barcelona teammates also agreed to 70% pay cuts at this time, so as to subsidise the salaries of permanent employees at the club. Photo: AP Photo/Manu Fernandez

“Health must always come first,” wrote Messi on his social media platforms. “It is an exceptional time and we must follow the instructions of health organisations and public authorities. Only by doing this can we effectively combat it. It is the time to be responsible and stay at home. It is also a perfect opportunity to enjoy family time, something that is not always possible.”

Ronaldo, in conjunction with his agent Jorge Mendes, contributed to the supply of lifesaving equipment for hospitals in Lisbon and Porto.

Several English footballers, cricket players and rugby players, have started fund-raising campaigns, in addition to making their own cash donations to the National Health Service workers and people whose livelihoods are threatened because of the sudden loss of jobs.

Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford has been prominent in ensuring all children get fed, and in the past week he raised more than £150 000 pounds to feed 600 000 children.

Rashford’s United also joined forces with arch-rivals Manchester City in donating £100 000 to food banks to offset the loss of food donations that come from match days.

Food, and the understanding of the need to feed children, was also at the heart of Utah Jazz basketballer Donovan Mitchell’s social media post.

“My mom’s career in education made me value children and the importance of academics and I want to make sure that kids can continue to eat a meal while they can’t go to school,” he wrote.

Internationally, athletes have united in forming ‘Athletes For COVID-19’, where over 100 of the biggest names from 20 different sports donated signed memorabilia for auction. The proceeds from the auction will go to the Centre for Disaster Philanthropy’s Covid-19 Response Fund.

The greatest collective in combining individual and club resource has come from the big four sporting codes in the US, with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Football League (NFL) particularly dominant in what players and clubs are doing.

The Golden State Warriors led the pledges of a million-plus dollars to a disaster relief fund established by the Warriors Community Foundation.

The NBA on March 11 indefinitely stopped all league matches because of the threat of Covid-19 and immediately Cleveland Cavaliers’s Kevin Love announced on his social media platforms that he would give $100 000 dollars to event staff, to compensate for loss of earnings during the shutdown.

The Golden State Warriors led the pledges of a million-plus dollars to a disaster relief fund established by the Warriors Community Foundation. Photo: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Love, a five-time All-Star and NBA Championship winner with the Cavaliers in 2016, was the first NBA player to detail his action plan and the league’s player base didn’t need a second invitation to respond.

The Seattle Seahawks’s Russell Wilson, through Food Lifeline, pledged one million meals and the first NBA player to test positive for the virus, Utah Jazz’s Ridy Gobert, donated $500 000, split between families impacted by the virus in Utah and Oklahoma City, his native France and Jazz game-day employees.

“Be kind. Help if you can. Stay resilient,” Love told his followers on social media. “Our actions and our words speak volumes at this time.”

Teams and players in the NBA have donated more than $40m to various Covid-19 relief funds and in excess of two million meals.

Miami Heat owners, the Arison family, donated $1m to a fund dedicated to helping part-time workers at the club, with the common thread being ‘this is bigger than basketball’.

The Major League Baseball (MLB) gave $1m to emergency food services and each of their teams pledged $1m for ballpark workers affected by the shutdown.

The New Orleans Pelicans owner Gary Benson donated $1m to create the Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund, while the owners of the Orlando Magic, the De Vos family, created a $2m compensation fund for the Orlando Magic, Amway Centre, Lakeland Magic and Orlando Solar Bears game-day workers.

Soccer players from England’s Premier League, the most watched globally, have been as generous with their money, time and care.

Every club has formalised action plans in dealing with people from within their respective communities and players daily are using their vast reach on social media to educate people about the virus, inspire people with content and encourage people to inspire each other with goodwill and consideration.

Sport, even in its on-field absence, is proving the one shining light during these most extraordinary of global times.