Nominees and Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Honorees Announced for the Third Annual Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards Sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb

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Nominees and Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Honorees Announced for the Third Annual Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards Sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb

  • Numerous Leagues, Teams, Athletes & Companies Represented
  • WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon, Orlando City Soccer Club and Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality Named Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award Honorees

Nominees and select honorees from across the world of sports were unveiled for the third annual Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards, presented by ESPN and sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb. The event will celebrate and honor leagues, teams, individuals and members of the sporting community that are using the power of sport to make a positive impact on society. It will take place for the first time at L.A. LIVE’s The Novo on Tuesday, July 11.

Multiple sports leagues and/or governing bodies – including MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL, PGA TOUR, USOC, USTA, WNBA and WWE – have nominated athletes, teams and community members who are transforming lives and uplifting communities.

During the event, winners will be announced from nominees of three returning award categories: Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year, Corporate Community Impact Award and League Humanitarian Leadership Award. New this year is the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award (changed from last year’s Sports Humanitarian of the Year) to honor the legacy of Muhammad Ali’s impact on society. Additionally, three Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award honorees will be recognized.

Below are the nominees for the four categories and the honorees for the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award (descriptions later on in press release):

  • Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award finalists: Ernie Els (PGA TOUR), Larry Fitzgerald (NFL’s Arizona Cardinals), Mark Giordano (NHL’s Calgary Flames) and Curtis Granderson (MLB’s New York Mets)
  • Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award finalists: Chicago White Sox (MLB), Memphis Grizzlies (NBA), New York City Football Club (MLS) and San Francisco 49ers (NFL)
  • Corporate Community Impact Award finalists: Chevron, DICK’S Sporting Goods, HOK and Under Armour
  • League Humanitarian Leadership Award: Winner to be announced at the dinner, July 11
  • Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award honorees: WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon, Orlando City Soccer Club and the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality

Laila Ali will return as host for the Sports Humanitarian Awards for the third year alongside ESPN’s Mike Greenberg. Highlights of the evening will be showcased during a one-hour program on ESPN, July 25, at 7 p.m. ET. Additionally, Lilly Oncology is returning as an event sponsor.

The net proceeds of the event will benefit the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund at the V Foundation. In addition, ESPN will grant another $1 million to the charities of the nominees and winners. Combined, more than $1.7 million was distributed to the community as a result of the initiative in 2016.

The finalists and winners have been determined by an independent selection committee, which includes: Nick Keller, Founder and President of Beyond Sport, Donald Lassere, CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center, Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, CEO of Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA, Sab Singh, Founder of Sports Doing Good, Caryl Stern, CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Eli Wolff, Director of the Sport and Society program at Brown University.

“The Sports Humanitarian Awards finalists and honorees are making a true, measurable impact on society using the power of sports,” said Kevin Martinez, vice president of ESPN Corporate Citizenship. “With the newly named Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award, moving the event to The Novo and an hour-long special on ESPN, this year’s show promises to be the best yet.”

Below are the award descriptions, as well as details about the nominees and honorees for the 2017 Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards.


The Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award recognizes an athlete whose continuous, demonstrated leadership has created a positive impact on their community through sports. The winner will be able to direct a $100,000 grant from ESPN to the qualified charity related to the award-winning humanitarian efforts. The finalists will be able to direct a $25,000 grant to the charity related to their award-winning efforts.

Nominees (winner to be announced at awards ceremony July 11):

  • Ernie Els: In 2009, Ernie Els and his wife Liezl established the Els for Autism Foundation shortly after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. The Els have donated millions of their own money, and through dedicated fundraising they opened the first components of The Els Center of Excellence. The Center, based in Jupiter, Fla., serves the local, national and international autism communities and is game-changing resource in the field. To date, his programs have served over 3,647 individuals with Autism and their families from 13 countries, focusing on education, global outreach, therapy, research, recreation and adult services. Els’ programs extend to the links as well with his innovative Ernie Els #GameON Autism Golf program, which encourages participants to learn golf skills while practicing specific autism learning concepts including communication, emotional regulation, motor and social skills.


  • Larry Fitzgerald: Following a long tradition of community service in his family, giving back is part of Larry Fitzgerald’s ethos. Through the Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund, he has supported middle and high schools in Minneapolis and Phoenix to fund books, science supplies and field trips, and helps provide the latest technology to disadvantaged youth who otherwise would not have access. He helped to outfit the entire Minneapolis Parks and Recreation youth football program where Larry first played football as a young child with 1,000 new helmets. In honor of his late mother, Fitzgerald has become a champion of breast cancer research and has used his play on the field to highlight breast cancer awareness and prevention efforts. He also has teamed with a number of international aid foundations, helping fit hundreds of hearing aids for those in need all over Africa, as well as working on irrigation systems and digging wells in local communities.


  • Mark Giordano: Undrafted but now at the forefront of the Calgary Flames as team captain, Mark Giordano never loses sight of what got him to the NHL, and consistently exhibits conviction, integrity and bravery in his long-history of giving back to the community. His 5 for 5 initiative provided the funding to build five homes with Habitat for Humanity in Ethiopia, India, Kenya, the Philippines and the Calgary area. In 2014, he and his wife Lauren launched Team Giordano, which has helped 1,900 students in four high-needs Calgary schools. The program not only provides resources, including computers, supplies and their own “Gio Journals” to track students’ progress, but promotes physical fitness, academics, and the positive behaviors that lead to success in life. And the program is working—with one school reporting that 88% of students are reading at grade level thanks to the literacy resources provided courtesy of Team Giordano. Additionally, he stands behind other important community causes, including stamping out discrimination based on sexual orientation and support of mental health awareness.
  • Curtis Granderson: Curtis Granderson’s passion is deeply rooted in opening windows of opportunity for youth minorities in underserved communities. He noticed a common obstacle shared by many of these youth – hunger. Since 2012, Granderson has hosted a month-long campaign every November entirely dedicated to solving the food insecurity epidemic. First in Chicago, the Grand Giving program later expanded to New York City, and then nationally in 2017. Since its inception, the campaign has provided more than 3.5 million meals for hungry youth across the country. Additionally, in an effort to get kids active and enjoy the game of baseball, Granderson helped build a new stadium on the campus of his alma mater, the University of Illinois at Chicago, which enables 20,000 inner-city kids the opportunity to play each year.

The Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award represents a sports club/team that demonstrates how teamwork can create a measurable impact on a community or cause. The winner will be able to direct a $100,000 grant from ESPN to the qualified charity related to the award-winning humanitarian efforts. The finalists will be able to direct a $25,000 grant to the charity related to their award-winning efforts.

Nominees (winner to be announced at awards ceremony July 11):

  • Chicago White Sox: In Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods, a program spearheaded by Jerry Reinsdorf and the Chicago White Sox has taken hold, inspiring kids to excel in life through the power of baseball. The Amateur City Elite (ACE) youth baseball program aims to reverse the declining interest and participation in baseball among African-Americans and to prepare each participant to succeed in life beyond the field. More than 150 inner city youth participate each year. Ninety-nine percent of participants graduate high school, which is 25% higher than the 2015-2016 Chicago Public Schools graduation rate. Additionally, 148 college scholarships have been earned by ACE participants to schools like Louisville, Michigan and Vanderbilt, and 18 players have been drafted by MLB teams, including Corey Ray in the first round last year. Reinsdorf and the White Sox dedicate the organization’s best resources to develop and prepare youth, through scouts, coaches and front office staff. In a city plagued by gun violence that often targets minority youth, the ACE program serves as a source of hope and inspiration for the community.


  • Memphis Grizzlies: More than 40% of children in Memphis grow up in impoverished neighborhoods around the city. The Grizzlies have responded in a big way by building an organizational culture of service focused on mitigating the effects of childhood poverty. The organization supports a rigorous academic preparatory Academy, Grizzlies Prep. This middle school serves predominantly low-income boys living in underserved communities of color. During the past 5 years, the school has begun to close the achievement gap and currently ranks 3rd in Reading and 7th in Math across all 38 Shelby County Middle Schools. The Grizzlies also direct and fund programs that operate in 5 other middle schools, 10 community centers and 14 nonprofits that serve high-poverty youth. Additionally, they developed a professional network of 500 coaches equipped with tools to alleviate the impacts of poverty, violence and trauma. They’ve invested in reactivating vacant, blighted areas through urban agriculture, park enhancements and programming to support community-police relations.


  • New York City Football Club: New York City FC (NYCFC) supports City in the Community (CITC) charity, using the power of soccer to tackle issues around health, education and crime throughout New York City. One third of children in NYC’s public elementary schools are obese or overweight. To address this staggering statistic, CITC serves over 5,000 youth each year with free programs that promote fitness and healthy eating habits, including school sports sessions, youth led community soccer festivals, an annual “City Schools Cup,” and a health and nutrition curriculum called “Healthy Hat-trick.” NYCFC also has committed to increase the physical space for communities to play soccer with the construction of three soccer fields, as well as a commitment to build 50 mini-pitches over five years in collaboration with partners. To address rising levels of crime and youth violence and to improve community relations with local law enforcement, CITC has partnered with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office on Saturday Night Lights, a program that offers soccer during times when crime levels are at the highest. Together, NYCFC and CITC are impacting more than 4,000 youth across the five boroughs every week.


  • San Francisco 49ers: In addition to the San Francisco 49ers collectively donating over 1,200 hours of volunteer time to 75 community events and committing $4 million to local non-profits in 2016 alone, the team is also at the forefront of two innovative and highly impactful programs that use football to make lasting changes in the Bay Area. First, the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute is a six-year curriculum that begins in 7th grade and continues through high school and seeks to prepare students with high academic potential in STEM. During the 2016-2017 school year, over 40,000 hours of education have been offered, including integrated and open lab hours, tutoring, and enrichment events. Of the 60 students in the 2020 class, 50% have 4.0 GPAs and the average GPA is 3.81. Second, the 49ers STEAM Education Program – which opened in 2014, provides informal learning experiences for K-8 students through its program that teaches standards-aligned (Common Core and Next Generation Science) lessons using the STEAM principles of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. Housed within the Denise DeBartolo York Education Center at Levi’s Stadium, the program has reached over 150,000 participants since inception – free of charge – with over 50 percent of students coming from Title I designated schools.

The Corporate Community Impact Award recognizes a corporation that uses the power of sports to help advance a social issue, cause or community organization. The winner will be able to direct a $100,000 grant from ESPN to the qualified charity related to the award-winning humanitarian efforts. The finalists will be able to direct a $25,000 grant to the charity related to their award-winning efforts.

 Nominees (winner to be announced at awards ceremony July 11):

  • Chevron: Not nearly enough students in the United States currently possess the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills they need in order to succeed in the future. Chevron is working to solve this issue using the power of sports to attract kids to STEM and inspire them by demonstrating real-life applications. Across the country, Chevron partners with professional sports teams to inspire and educate students. Chevron has reached more than 500,000 kids at baseball clinics, basketball games and golf tournaments over the past seven years through its STEM Zone program, which provides kids with hands-on activities linking STEM to sports. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Chevron has partnered with the San Francisco 49ers on the Chevron STEM Zone in the 49ers Museum at Levi’s Stadium, which has already exposed more than 150,000 students to STEM concepts, as well as the STEM Leadership Institute, which provides 180 students with more than 330 extra hours of enhanced curriculum and STEM opportunities annually.


  • DICK’S Sporting Goods: Billions of dollars have been cut from youth sports programs nationwide in recent years and 60 percent of children must now pay a fee to play. DICK’S Sporting Goods and The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation launched Sports Matter to help save youth sports. DICK’S has integrated Sports Matter across its major company initiatives highlighting the benefits of youth sports though documentaries and shorts films, spreading awareness and funding by selling “Green Laces” in stores and supporting over 200 Team USA Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls through flexible employment and sponsorship agreements. To date DICK’s and its Foundation have pledged over $50 million to support youth athletics across the country, and in 2016 alone supported thousands of teams, helping these young athletes play sports.


  • HOK: HOK is working with communities to design environmentally smarter stadiums and arenas that decrease the footprint and increase the positive impact on the community. Their projects include the first professional stadium to pursue LEED Platinum (Mercedes-Benz Stadium), the first LEED Silver ballpark (Nationals Park) and the only salmon-safe certified stadium and the single largest LEED certified facility (Husky Stadium). Across their stadiums they were able to save energy use by an average of 18.75%; reduce water consumption by 38.4%; divert an average of 80% of waste from landfills; and design spaces that have produced more than 24 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables for their communities. Their commitment extends to their employees — to commemorate HOK’s 60th anniversary, their employees worldwide contributed more than 5,700 hours of pro bono design services, 4,200 more than the initial goal.


  • Under Armour: In 1990, there were more than 130 community recreation centers in Baltimore. Today, there are 40. In a community where nearly 64% of households earn less than $25,000 per year, Under Armour’s Project Heartbeat revitalized the way youth in East Baltimore access sport and recreation while reimagining the possibilities of community centers. The state-of-the-art community center provides for nonprofit collaboration and has resulted in a 38% increase in youth attendance, and overall facility usage increase of nearly 200%.  Additionally, 14 area schools now have access to 30 new programs offered by 15 new program providers, including those offered by Living Classrooms Foundation, the operator of the facility. With more than 600 employees volunteering their time through this project, the center has become a model for community and corporate collaboration.


The League Humanitarian Leadership Award honors a professional sports league for driving social impact. The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony July 11. The winner will be able to direct a $100,000 grant from ESPN to the qualified charity related to the award-winning humanitarian efforts.


In honor of former ESPN commentator Stuart Scott, this award celebrates someone that has taken risk and used an innovative approach to helping the disadvantaged through the power of sports. Candidates can include anyone who works within the sports sector. The honorees will be able to direct a $100,000 grant from ESPN to the qualified charity related to the award-winning humanitarian efforts.

Honorees to be recognized at awards ceremony July 11:

  • Stephanie McMahon: WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon has the unique opportunity both as an on screen performer and the primary spokesperson for WWE’s corporate social responsibility initiatives to help raise funds and awareness for partners including Make-A-Wish, Special Olympics, Susan G. Komen, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Be a STAR, WWE’s anti-bullying program. Her innovative approach to giving back is highlighted through her passion for pediatric cancer research, which began after meeting 8-year-old WWE fan Connor Michalek, who was battling medulloblastoma, a rare tumor that affects the brain and spinal cord. Connor formed a special connection with Stephanie, Paul “Triple H” Levesque and many WWE Superstars, who were enamored with his energy and determination to fight his debilitating form of cancer. When Connor lost his battle in 2014, Stephanie and Paul honored him by creating Connor’s Cure, a fund at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where Connor was being treated. Under McMahon’s leadership, WWE expanded Connor’s Cure into a national fund in partnership with the V Foundation for Cancer Research. To date, Connor’s Cure has raised more than $1.5 million and assisted 240 families around the world.


  • Orlando City Soccer Club #OrlandoUnited: On June 12, 2016, a gunman opened fire at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando killing 49 people. Six days later, Orlando City SC held the first professional sporting event following the tragic attack in Central Florida. Though it came with risk, the club and its dedicated supporters crafted a bold, inspired and innovative response. Every aspect of the match was a dedication to those whose lives were lost—from the inspirational music played at pregame, down to the rainbow-colored corner flags on the field. The families of the victims along with first responders were recognized before the game. Every Orlando City SC player wore #OrlandoUnited patches on their jersey, black armbands and rainbow wristbands. At the 49th minute of play, the game was intentionally stopped for the first time in MLS history for a moment of silence to honor the 49 victims. A section of seats was left empty at midfield, filled only with a single colorful balloon—later to be memorialized with 49 dedicated rainbow-colored seats in Section 12 of the club’s new stadium. The club, in its second year in the league, took a stand to define their character and commitment for respect and inclusion. And their commitment continues: Orlando City SC has already raised $500,000 for the OneOrlando Fund.


  • The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality: In October 2015, Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross took a risk by driving awareness to the conversation of race relations in the United States. He established the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) to harness the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress. Ross has worked tirelessly on the project, engaging and personally recruiting influential leaders to be part of RISE’s board of directors, including all of the major sports league commissioners and sports broadcast executives. Since its founding, RISE programs have reached more than 30,000 students, coaches and athletic staff. Innovative programs include the RISE High School Leadership program, which empowers coaches and student-athletes to be leaders in discussing and addressing matters of racism. After completion, 92% said they have the skills to have difficult conversations about race. RISE also has partnered with the Detroit Police Athletic League directly linking youth with law enforcement, thereby creating conversation and shared relationships. In teaming up with the NBA and the New Orleans Pelicans on the Saturday Morning Hoops program, which includes participation from officers in the New Orleans Police Department, 89% of youth stated they felt trusted and appreciated by the police.

 At the 2016 Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards, the following individuals, teams and campaigns were recognized:

  • Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year: San Francisco Giants
  • Sports Humanitarian of the Year: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
  • Corporate Community Impact: Bank of America
  • League Humanitarian Leadership Award: NBA
  • Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Awards: Billie Jean King, Robert Kraft and the 2015 University of Missouri Football Team

About ESPN Corporate Citizenship
ESPN believes that, at its very best, sports uplifts the human spirit. Its corporate citizenship programs use the power of sport to positively address society’s needs through strategic community investments, cause marketing programs, collaboration with sports organizations and employee volunteerism, while also utilizing its diverse media assets. For more information go to

About the V Foundation for Cancer Research
The V Foundation for Cancer Research is dedicated to declaring victory over cancer. It was founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano, legendary North Carolina State Basketball coach and ESPN commentator. Since 1993, the Foundation has funded more than $170 million in cancer research grants nationwide. It awards 100 percent of all direct cash donations to cancer research and related programs. Due to generous donors, the Foundation has an endowment that covers administrative expenses. Not a Moment to Lose, its boldest fundraising campaign to date, aims to raise $200 million for cancer research by 2020 to help transform the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer. The Foundation awards peer-reviewed grants through a competitive awards process vetted by a world-renowned Scientific Advisory Committee. For more information on the V Foundation, please visit

About Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali is one of the most recognizable and influential sports figures of all time. His countless awards and accolades include being named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Century,” GQ’s “Athlete of the Century,” and being the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freeman and the Amnesty International Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to his groundbreaking achievements as an athlete, Muhammad Ali was a global citizen who dedicated much of his life to helping those in need. He facilitated the delivery of medical supplies to an embargoed Cuba, provided more than 22 million meals to the world’s hungry and helped secure the release of fifteen U.S. hostages from Iraq during the first Gulf War.

About Bristol-Myers Squibb
Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases. For more information about Bristol-Myers Squibb, visit us at or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.



ESPN Contact: Josh Krulewitz at (860) 766-2319; [email protected]; @jksports
Belen Michelis at (860) 766-1425; [email protected]; @belen_espn




Belen Michelis

Belen Michelis is a senior publicist focusing on ESPN Corporate Citizenship, Spelling Bee, Invictus Games, Warrior Games, ESPN local radio (98.7FM NY, ESPNLA 710, ESPN Chicago 1000), Misc. Sports and the WNBA. Prior to joining the ESPN Communications team, Michelis worked in Ad Sales for ESPN Deportes and International from 2010-2014. Michelis graduated from Boston College in 2010.
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