On July 9th, ESPN hosted the fifth annual Sports Humanitarian Awards sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb. We attended the event as a guest of sponsor Dove Men+Care.
The fifth annual Sports Humanitarian Awards, a ceremony honoring athletes, teams, and leaders who have used their platforms to help humanitarian and sustainability efforts. Inspired by Legends of the past like Muhammad Ali and Billie Jean King who not only dominated in their sport, but used their voice to break barriers, create change, and inspire others to do the same. Now celebrating those legacies, the ceremony honors people in their name, with the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award and the newly added Billie Jean Kind Youth Leadership Award.
The night started off with a red carpet where Stephanie McMahon, Seth Rollins, Becky Lynch, Henry Cejudo, Laila Ali, just to name a few, arrived. The Ceremony was hosted by Ciara and began with a musical performance by Andy Grammer.
The first award was the Stuart Scott Enspire Award Presented by UFC which honored Lina Khalifeh. Khalifeh is a taekwondo champion who has won 20 gold medals from national and international competitions. In her home country of Jordan, as well as all over the Middle East, she saw how much domestic violence against women there was. “I was so angry,” said Khalifeh, “I did not understand why men treat women this way. I did not understand why some women accepted this kind of treatment, and I wanted to solve the problem, so I started SheFighter.” SheFighter was the first women’s only self-defense school in the Middle East, empowering women physically and psychologically through martial arts. Since 2012, SheFighter has grown to train 18,000 women of all backgrounds and ability, as well as open studios in over 35 countries. “You see, Stuart Scott has inspired me at his last speech at ESPYS Awards,” she said, “I am so honored to be receiving this award. So tonight, I am honoring his soul.”
In addition, Tyler Trent was honored with the Stuart Scott Enspire Award Presented by Bristol-Myers Squibb. Trent suffered from a rare bone cancer called osteosarcoma and had aspirations of working in sports journalism. As the honorary co-captain of the Purdue football team, he never let his condition stop him. He was committed to serving others, sharing his story and raising money to eradicate the disease and help the lives of people who fight a similar battle. He rose to national recognition and befriended many members of the sports industry, using his platform to encourage donations, raising $2.2 million for Purdue University, the Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, and the V Foundation. While Tyler Trent is no longer with us, his legacy and the lives he has helped will always be remembered.
The Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year honors a sports club/team that demonstrates how teamwork can create an impact on a community or cause. The Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Dodgers, and New York City Football Club were all finalists for the award, but the Chicago Fire Soccer Club won the award. After seeing that 40% of public school students in Chicago do not graduate high school and that nearly 70 students drop out of school every day, The Chicago Fire Soccer Club created an after-school soccer program called P.L.A.Y.S (Participate, Learn, Achieve, Youth and Soccer). P.L.A.Y.S. is a 10-week program integrating soccer with social and emotional learning to ultimately improve participant’s academic performance, while also providing a safe and supporting environment for soccer. The program has been extremely effective; participants have had a decrease in behavior infractions, disciplinary incidents, unexcused absences, suspensions, and failing grades. Furthermore, there has been a 50% decrease in crime near program spaces, an incredible statistic given that 60% of P.L.A.Y.S. schools were in the top 20 most violent neighborhoods in Chicago. The Chicago Fire Soccer Club is honored for their commitment to the youth of Chicago and the change they have achieved through their P.L.A.Y.S. program.
Next was the Corporate Community Impact Award. Amongst the finalists of Anthem Foundation, Burton Snowboards, Finish Line and Brooks Running, Under Armour was named the winner. Under Armour, The NBA, and RISE teamed up to create Building Bridges Through Basketball in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Charlotte. The 10-week program follows an interactive curriculum that brings together youth, coaches, and local law enforcement where they discuss topics like identity and diversity as well as empathy and respect. Alongside that, Under Armour has renovated hundreds of sports facilities, supported leadership training, and sports programming for millions of students, giving communities opportunities through sports.
After Dinner provided by the world-renowned Wolfgang Puck, the newly added Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award Presented by Anthem Foundation honored Harrison Barnes, Mathew Diaz, Lisa Parks, and Yasmine Sanchez. All of them lead efforts to help the youth through sports programs and action. Harrison Barnes founded Gear Up, a program which helps kids, especially those with special needs, learn to ride bikes safely, have access to safe riding spaces, and work with mentors. To date, Gear Up has facilitated 9,000 hours of mentored riding for special needs kids and has helped 4,500 children. Matthew Diaz and Lisa Parks noticed that many students don’t get the chance to play sports in New York City schools. Matt and Lisa are leaders in the Fair Play Coalition which creates equitable access to school sports in NYC. They have also been a part of a class-action lawsuit accusing the education department and the Public School Athletic League of discrimination by denying African-American and Hispanic students equal opportunity to play on school teams. Their efforts lead to the unanimously passed 242-B bill, which is designed to address inequalities in high school sports for African-American and Latino students. Yasmine Sanchez created Soccer Bloc, a free 5-weeks summer program that uses soccer to connect over 500 young people from different communities across New York City. Each week they implement curricula focused on different topics including diversity and inclusion, healthy lifestyles, safety awareness, self-identity, and leadership, all through the lens of soccer. These four were honored for their efforts and contributions to helping and fighting for the youth through sports.
The League Humanitarian Leadership Award was given to the National Hockey League for their efforts to create an inclusive experience for the entire hockey community. The NHL has created several programs and initiatives to introduce children to ice hockey, educate students in STEM, and promote, inspire, and effectuate positive changes in the hockey experience for all players and families. The Sports Sustainability Leadership Award was given to Adidas for innovating in eco-friendly materials. Adidas has created a line that transforms recycled plastics from ocean pollution into clothing and apparel. Additionally, they have worked to educate consumers about the importance of the oceans, the problem of plastic pollution, and the ways to eliminate unnecessary plastic from people’s lives.
Finally, the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award honors an athlete who has continuously demonstrated leadership and has created a measurable impact on their community through sports. Of finalists Reggie Bullock, Yadier Molina, and Sloane Stephens, Chris Long was the winner of the award. “Muhammad Ali is a guy who is probably the greatest fighter of all time. But what stood out to me about Muhammad Ali is his most important and impactful fights were not with his fists, his fights were with his conviction, his bravery, and his voice” said Chris Long. In 2017, Chris donated his entire salary to benefit educational equality and encouraged fans to follow him. His “Pledge 10 for Tomorrow” effort raised $1.75 million to support the three cities he spent his NFL career in St. Louis, Boston, and Philadelphia. In 2018, Walter Payton matched Chris’s financial donations with boots on the ground efforts. The Waterboys initiative has helped 225,000 people in East Africa gain access to clean drinking water through 61 newly built water wells. “I have a teammate of mine, we never played together but I want to give a big shout out to Miles Garrett. He has been a Waterboy for us since he got into the league.” Said Long during his acceptance speech, “I need younger guys in the fight, any older athlete knows that we gotta bring our teammates along. I am proud to say that Miles Garrett has committed to being our active captain for the next 10-15 years, so thank you, Miles.”
The honorees and award winners from this year’s Sports Humanitarian Awards have paved a way for change and improvement within the communities of America and the broader world. Through helping the youth in inner cities, to cleaning the oceans, and providing clean water to those without it, sports and teamwork have proven to be an excellent catalyst for creating a better world.
On July 18th, the Award Ceremony will be airing on ESPN at 7 pm ET.
Shout out to Dove Men+Care for the invite.