Images from event: https://bit.ly/36sRqma
Donovan Mitchell, Russell Wilson and Francis Ngannou Revealed as Marvel’s Earth’s Mightiest Athletes
The seventh annual Sports Humanitarian Awards were awarded tonight at The Rooftop at Pier 17, located within the Seaport in New York City. The event, hosted by actor and author Taye Diggs, will air as a 90-minute television special on Saturday, July 24, at 2 p.m. ET on ABC.
This year’s winners include (see below for descriptions on each award):
- Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award Presented by Dove Men+Care: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Kansas City Chiefs
- Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year: Atlanta Dream
- Corporate Community Impact Award: Microsoft
- Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award: Adom Appiah, Tory Bailey, Gabriel Banuelos, Jacob Eusebio, Amani Shah, Holly Wilson
- Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award Sponsored by Bristol Myers Squibb: Joe Torre; Frank Kipp, Blackfeet Boxing; Tom Walter & Kevin Jordan, Get In the Game
- Sports Philanthropist of the Year Award: Arthur Blank, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United
- League Humanitarian Leadership Award: NBA
In addition to Russell Wilson previously being named one of Marvel’s Earth’s Mightiest Athletes, UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou, United States Women’s National Team soccer star and two-time World Cup Champion Julie Ertz and the Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell also were announced as part of the collective.
As part of the Sports Humanitarian Awards ESPN will donate more than $1 million in charitable contributions on behalf of the award nominees and honorees. To date, more than $12 million has been donated to the community on behalf of the Awards. The Awards and sponsorships benefited the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund at the V Foundation for Cancer Research once again, which supports minority scientists and researchers working to improve outcomes for minorities who are disproportionately affected by cancer.
MUHAMMAD ALI SPORTS HUMANITARIAN AWARD PRESENTED BY DOVE MEN+CARE
The Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award is given to an athlete whose continuous, demonstrated leadership and care has created a measured positive impact on their community through sports.
Less than three months after winning Super Bowl LIV, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif — the Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Lineman who also is a Medical School Graduate — began fighting COVID-19 on the front lines at a long-term care facility in Quebec, Canada. His conviction to combat a virus the world knew very little about at the onset of the pandemic risked his own personal health and football career. Duvernay-Tardif was the first NFL player to opt out of playing in the 2020 season due to COVID-19, and did so to follow a calling to help medical professionals and give an extra hand to help care for some of the most vulnerable. He worked for eight months as an orderly and properly administered appropriate drug dosages, fed, washed and dressed each patient. The offensive lineman also served on the NFLPA’s COVID-19 task force, where he helped examine different scenarios for the safest measures to put in place when football games returned. Along with playing football and working in healthcare, the Super Bowl Champion created the Laurent Duvernay-Tardif Foundation with his longtime girlfriend, Florence, to ensure both physical activity and creativity are a part of a child’s development and educational success.
SPORTS HUMANITARIAN TEAM OF THE YEAR
The Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year represents a sports team that demonstrates how teamwork can create a measurable impact on a community or cause.
Following George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent protests, the Atlanta Dream’s previous owner and Georgia Senate Candidate denounced the WNBA’s public support of the Black Lives Matter movement, undermining her own players and their beliefs, and forcing them to take a position in direct opposition of their employer. Rather than stay silent, they bravely spoke truth to power, and along with WNBA peers, shined a light on the important issues of racial justice and voter suppression. Then, shockwaves were felt across the political and sports world when, on a nationally televised game, the Dream players wore “Vote Warnock” t-shirts, publicly endorsing the owner’s opponent in the Georgia Senate election. The support of the WNBA and the Dream catalyzed the opponent’s candidacy and led to his Senate victory. In a full circle moment, the Dream made history again when former Dream All-Star Renee Montgomery became the first former WNBA player to become both an owner and senior executive. The Atlanta Dream was named in honor of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, and what these women accomplished for civil rights and social justice embodies Dr. King’s “Dream” of a more equitable America.
CORPORATE COMMUNITY IMPACT AWARD
The Corporate Community Impact Award recognizes a corporation that utilizes their business platform and the power of sports to help advance a social issue, cause or community organization.
The abrupt onset of the COVID-19 pandemic created many challenges, including loneliness and isolation, which was especially felt by those with intellectual disabilities (ID). According to recent data released in March from Jefferson Health, people with ID were 2.5 times more likely to contract COVID-19, were about 2.7 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital and almost 6 times more likely to die from the infection than the general population. As a long standing partner of Special Olympics, Microsoft recognized that meaningful engagement was desperately needed as in-person events were cancelled, and launched the 2020 Special Olympics Xbox Virtual Gaming Event featuring Forza Motorsport 7 to bring athletes together virtually to connect and compete. The event was livestreamed on Xbox, YouTube, Twitch and Mixer, and engaged athletes from 11 state Special Olympics Programs garnering more than 118,000 views from cheering fans. The event showcased a custom-skinned Special Olympics race car and the first-ever Special Olympics award ceremony stadium in Minecraft that was gifted to Special Olympics for future events. This event showcased the positive impacts of gaming by creating meaningful connections, while spreading the message of inclusion to a global audience by celebrating people of all abilities.
BILLIE JEAN KING YOUTH LEADERSHIP AWARD
The Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award celebrates and honors youth who are using the power of sport as a catalyst for change and making a positive impact on society.
At the age of 12, Adom Appiah started a school project to improve the Spartanburg, South Carolina community, as it faces systemic issues including health disparities, racial inequities and lack of support for after-school programs. The project propelled Appiah to launch his nonprofit, Ball4Good, which uses the power of sports to address social issues in his hometown. Since its inception, Appiah has raised over $100,000 to support 20 local nonprofits, and he has organized local events and food drives, while also supporting Martin Luther King, Jr. Day basketball camps. In addition to fundraising, Appiah’s goal for Ball4Good is to encourage kids to support their community by volunteering and provide grants for organizations addressing local issues, all through the power of sports. Appiah has created a committed youth group and involves them in making impactful decisions for their community, as they help select grant recipients and provide younger kids with volunteer opportunities. When the global pandemic presented countless, unforeseen obstacles, Appiah and his team quickly adapted to engage remotely with their community, and raised over $20,000 to support organizations impacted by COVID-19. Before heading to college in 2022, Appiah hopes to raise an additional $100,000 to sustain Ball4Good’s future.
After not being able to play tennis in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) as an independent player because of California’s current rules and regulations for both charter and home school students, Tory Bailey recognized the inequities and began working with the Pete Brown Junior Tennis Program (PBJTP) to develop a community tennis program for non-traditional high school players. Currently, charter and home school students in California can only join their school district’s public school tennis teams upon the team’s coach granting them permission to be a part of the team, creating an inequitable opportunity for kids to compete in the sport. With PBJTP, Bailey created a community plan that proposes a change to CIF’s current entry process policy to play tennis for students in the Southern Los Angeles Unified School District, charter and private schools and homeschooling programs. Bailey believes tennis will open the door of equal opportunity for inner-city students who come from low-income environments, and is fighting for a community tennis program that will allow for these non-traditional high school players to compete in CIF’s tennis season and playoffs. Tory will be attending Howard University this fall as a scholar athlete playing on the men’s tennis team.
As a son of an immigrant and single mother in the Watts area of South Los Angeles, Gabriel Banuelos, grew up in an environment filled with high poverty, guns, drugs and gang violence, which ultimately prevented kids like him from playing outside. Banuelos recognized that children from the projects needed safe places to play, and he decided to take action by approaching the Los Angeles Police Department about creating a safe environment for youth to play soccer outside once a week. This led to a collaboration with LAPD’s Police Athletic League (PAL) program and Nick’s Kids was born to not only provide youth a safe place to play, but to also allow kids to interact with police and alleviate their fears of law enforcement. Today, over 30 kids meet several times a week at a supervised park to play soccer, have fun and are allowed to simply enjoy being a kid. The program also offers academic tutoring to encourage and motivate students to maintain their grades, as well as provide mentorships, encouragement and reinforces important morals and values to help them envision a better future and become productive young adults. Gabriel will be attending UCLA in the fall.
Growing up with an autistic brother, Jacob Eusebio always understood the disparities people with intellectual disabilities face as they navigate their daily lives, along with the challenges of finding inclusive programs for them to participate in. For Eusebio, it was difficult to find his brother adaptive group tennis lessons, so he created Serving Advantage to make tennis accessible to children with developmental disabilities, while allowing high school tennis players to coach and interact with the kids, no matter their ability. By partnering with local organizations, Eusebio saw a 450% increase in student participation, with 99% of the kids having no prior tennis experience. The Doubles Partners volunteer program creates a two-way street where students with disabilities connect with peers in a safe environment, and partners are taught how to be empathetic and understanding of their differences. The program started with 14 Doubles Partners from five local high schools and has grown to 40 Doubles Partners from 16 different Southern California high schools. Serving Advantage also has started a scholarship program to bring tennis to special needs families in underserved communities. Eusebio hopes to create a judgment-free space where special needs and general communities create lifelong friendships that transcend tennis.
As a young tennis player in Southern California, Amani Shah has realized the incredible benefits the sport provides her, while also recognizing within her community the huge gap in diversity, inclusion and access to the game that exists, largely due to the financial costs to participate. To address these disparities, Shah and her sister founded Second Serve — a fully youth run nonprofit organization — in 2019 with the goal to give tennis equipment a second chance by collecting gently used and excess tennis equipment, and redistributing it to underserved youth around the world to help kids gain access to the sport. Shah’s leadership has led to Second Serve growing its team to include over 70 Second Serve Presidents between the ages of 13 and 17 across the country. Her organization also partnered with local nonprofits to donate equipment in underserved communities across 23 states, as well as internationally across 11 different countries, including Uganda, India, Nigeria and Argentina. By sourcing equipment for these organizations, Second Serve is fueling youth involvement in tennis and giving more kids the opportunity to use sport to change their lives. Since its inception, Second Serve has collected and donated more than 10,000 pieces of equipment.
Holly Wilson’s passion for helping her community is deeply rooted in her interest in public health, and while a student at the University of Maryland she expanded her love for her studies into community involvement by coaching and mentoring through the sport of soccer with L.A.C.E.S. (Life and Change Experienced thru Sport). L.A.C.E.S. leverages the power of sport to mentor youth and empower local communities, while fostering life-skills and leadership development in the lives of the hundreds of at-risk youth, refugees and street children they serve. Wilson helps them by working with refugee youth in the Prince George’s County Riverdale community, and has enabled recently resettled youth as a mentor and coach and ambassador. Despite facing language barriers, as many of these youth do not speak English, Wilson uses soccer to build relationships with them and their families to ensure they feel supported and welcomed within their communities. On behalf of L.A.C.E.S., Holly developed and implemented a city-wide soccer festival that brought refugee youth and non-refugee youth together to support cross-cultural understanding and foster a connection through the sport. Upon her recent graduation from college, Holly hopes to pursue her interest in public health as a physician assistant.
STUART SCOTT ENSPIRE AWARD SPONSORED BY BRISTOL MYERS SQUIBB HONOREES
In honor of former ESPN commentator Stuart Scott, this award celebrates individuals that have taken risks and used an innovative approach to helping the disadvantaged through the power of sports.
In 2003, Frank Kipp founded and opened Blackfeet Nation Boxing Club at the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana to help all children with bullying, suicide prevention and drug and alcohol prevention, while also providing these kids with a safe place for them to find belonging and learn the art of boxing. Kipp has devoted his life to teaching, training and mentoring more than 500 of the club’s fighters, where they learn how to fight for respect, identity, acknowledgement, protection and survival. The club provides a safe harbor for those who want to learn and protect themselves — when Kipp saw that some of his fighters were coming to the gym hungry, he started serving meals after training sessions and opened a clothing and food bank out of a warehouse until the building was taken away. When kids were underdressed, he found them clothes and gear. And in a year when the pandemic devastated the reservation, Kipp never stopped fighting for the young people of Blackfeet Nation.
Like so many children, Baseball Hall of Famer and four-time World Series Champion Joe Torre grew up in a violent home where he watched his mother endure abuse from his father, and consequentially never felt safe. As an adult, Torre realized too many children also live and suffer with this fear and are unaware of how to ask for help. Torre founded the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation (SAH) to empower and provide healing services to traumatized youth exposed to violence, while educating them to end the cycle of domestic violence and save lives. Each year, SAH provides services to more than 19,000 young people in schools and communities, many of whom are impacted by trauma and violence. SAH’s multi-faceted school-based program, Margaret’s Place — named after Torre’s mother — provides integrated and comprehensive healing services to youth, and has reached over 109,000 young people, with 95% of students noting they are more hopeful about the future and 94% sharing they feel safer. And with Council on Criminal Justice reporting that domestic violence incidents have increased due to COVID-19 lockdown orders, SAH is committed to providing additional support to children so they can overcome these traumatic experiences.
Tom Walter and Kevin Jordan
After learning his student-athlete, Kevin Jordan, was in desperate need of a new kidney, Wake Forest Baseball Coach Tom Walter successfully donated his kidney to Jordan just days before the 2011 season, exemplifying an important lesson that despite being of different generations and backgrounds, their blood was the same. The two have since shared a special bond and remained close. Nearly ten years after the transplant, the world watched a video of George Floyd’s murder, which led to Jordan talking with Walter, about his fear, frustration and hurt, and how they — and their story of togetherness — could impact positive change. After several conversations, the coach and his former player created Get In the Game to educate and empower young people to take action in their homes, schools and communities and build a more diverse and equitable society. In its inaugural season, Get In the Game launched programs for middle and high school students, facilitated by trained educators, where youth, known as “GameChangers,” integrate principles of self-inquiry, cross-cultural communication and social movement strategy to foster challenging yet meaningful conversations on race and social justice, and inspire each other to be more intentional about listening, speaking up and taking action.
SPORTS PHILANTHROPIST OF THE YEAR AWARD
The Sports Philanthropist of the Year Award celebrates someone that is creating measurable social change through sports by using a comprehensive philanthropic funding strategy.
Arthur M. Blank
As the co-founder of The Home Depot, Blank believes that good companies can and should produce both profit and purpose towards a better world. In addition the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Blank’s Family of Businesses includes the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United; the nationwide PGA TOUR Superstore; three ranches in Montana, and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Blank is consistently entrenched in community initiatives, and provides financial resources through Blank Family Foundation for his businesses to make an impact in Atlanta, the state of Georgia and beyond. Upon signing the Mercedes Benz Stadium deal in 2013, which is North America’s first LEED Platinum professional sports stadium, Blank committed $15 million to invest in the transformation of the Westside neighborhoods adjacent to the stadium. His innovative philanthropic approach also has led the Atlanta United Foundation to open the world’s first mini soccer pitches inside a mass transit system, transforming unused and underused spaces to serve local youth. In 2020 alone, Blank and The Arthur M. Blank Foundation donated more than $300 million to support a children’s hospital, stuttering research, COVID-19 relief, social justice causes and PTSD treatment for military and first responders.
LEAGUE HUMANITARIAN OF THE YEAR AWARD
The League Humanitarian Leadership Award recognizes a professional sports league’s programmatic and philanthropic investments and its work for strategically engaging with athletes, teams and business partners to create positive impact in communities.
National Basketball Association
In a year unlike any other, 2020 will hold a distinct place in the NBA’s storied history. From the night of March 11, when the league halted its season, to its hands-on response to the nation’s racial reckoning, the NBA took a leading role in serving, engaging and inspiring communities across the world. The NBA Together initiative — launched 10 days after the shutdown — not only kept fans informed and connected to important resources, but also generated more than $100 million for part-time arena staff, healthcare workers and vital servers, provided over 10 million pieces of PPE and donated 9 million meals to food-insecure populations. Ahead of the Presidential Election, the NBA helped expand voting access and awareness with 23 teams committing facilities for safe voting, where over 300,000 people casted ballots. The NBA and NBPA collaborated to speak out against racial injustice and call for change, creating the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition to advance social justice. Additionally, the league created the NBA Foundation with an initial $300 million investment to create greater economic empowerment in the Black community through employment and career advancement. During 2021 All-Star, the league built on that commitment with $3 million in support of HBCUs.
MARVEL’S EARTH’S MIGHTIEST ATHLETES
Marvel’s Earth’s Mightiest Athletes is a collective of inspiring athletes that mirror Marvel heroes with their extraordinary abilities on the field, and their commitment to making a positive impact off of it. Not only do these honorees reflect the values of Muhammad Ali’s sports humanitarian shown in this year’s awards, but each has delivered for the community in a way that’s aligned with the super-powered spirit of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Captain Marvel stands out as a hero committed to going “Higher, further, faster” for those in need. Two-time World Cup Champion and Chicago Red Stars defender, Julie Ertz, is always going above and beyond with her commitment to uplift communities, and is never afraid to take on challenges in an effort to help those in need. Together with her husband, Super Bowl Champion Zach Ertz, Julie founded the Ertz Family Foundation, which focuses its charitable efforts on youth sports and education, while also supporting families. During the pandemic, Ertz helped deliver more than 600,000 meals to families in Philadelphia, and provided safe after school workouts for underserved athletes, and the champion continues to work to provide at-risk students with tools to reach their full potential. The 2019 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year is also an ambassador for water4Her, where she lends her support of empowering 100,000 East African women through clean water access.
A long-time Marvel fan who has been personally inspired by Spider-Man, the Utah Jazz shooting guard and 2018 NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion is known by basketball fans for his agility and quickness on the court, and he continues to take the NBA by storm as one of its brightest young stars in the league in just his first four seasons. Off the court, Donovan Mitchell is a hero in his community as he is committed to giving back and helping others. Mitchell also dedicates his time to his nonprofit, SPIDACARES, in an effort to increase access to education for students and expanding opportunities for young people to develop athletic skills, good sportsmanship and physical well-being. His goal is to close the educational gap to eliminate racism, as Mitchell believes an individual is not born racist and that it is taught, and can be combatted through a proper education to close the divide. As a member of the inaugural board of the NBA’s National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, Mitchell is teaming up with league players to leverage the game’s platform to raise awareness, educate and advocate for social justice and meaningful reform to inspire and create positive change.
Marvel’s Black Panther is king of Wakanda and a powerful warrior committed to protecting all people. As the reigning UFC Heavyweight Champion, mixed martial artist Francis Ngannou is known for his strength in the octagon and power in supporting African kids in need. Growing up in extreme poverty in Cameroon and unable to afford the cost of school, Ngannou started working in the sand mines at age 11. Determined to pursue his passion in boxing, he made his way to Paris, where he was homeless and without support. Against all odds, he persisted; and upon his success, he pledged he would come back and support the development of kids in Africa. Understanding the unique opportunity that was provided to him to compete in combat sports and the impact that sport can have on one’s outlook and outcome, he launched the Francis Ngannou Foundation and built the first-ever fully equipped MMA gym in Cameroon for those in his hometown so they could pursue their dreams without having to move thousands of miles away from home. The gym allows Ngannou to provide a safe space and community where trainees can discover and improve their talents, while learning important life skills.
Russell Wilson exhibits the qualities of Captain America, including compassion, leadership and courage to help those most in need, and he founded the Why Not You Foundation to fight poverty through education and empower youth to confidently lead. The eight-time NFL Pro Bowler and Super Bowl Champion is a captain on and off the gridiron, as he was recently selected as the NFL’s 2020 Walter Payton Man of the Year for his outstanding community service off the field and his excellence on the field. Wilson has helped donate more than $9 million to support the battle against cancer. He also makes weekly trips to Seattle Children’s Hospital while in season to visit with patients getting treatment, and during the pandemic, Wilson stepped up to donate a million meals to families in need. This upcoming September, Wilson and his wife, Ciara, will celebrate the grand opening of Why Not You Academy, a tuition-free charter public school just south of Seattle that focuses on building achievement, community and empowerment and prepares students to create and thrive in their future careers. The school will enhance the mission of Why Not You Foundation by providing today’s youth with tools to become tomorrow’s leaders.
About ESPN Corporate Citizenship
ESPN believes that, at its very best, sports uplift the human spirit. Its corporate citizenship programs use power of sport to positively address society’s needs through strategic community investments, inclusive storytelling, cause marketing programs, collaboration with sports organizations and employee volunteerism, while also utilizing its diverse media assets. For more information go to www.espn.com/citizenship and @ESPNCitizenship on Twitter and Instagram.
Olivia Wilson at (904) 303-3538; [email protected]; @livcwilson