The campaign to reverse the trend of cuts to youth sports funding is going green.
The Sports Matter program run by the DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation has launched a green shoelaces movement. Under the latest all-sports initiative, DICK'S will donate $2 from every shoelace sale to Sports Matter. The green shoelaces can be purchased at DICK'S stores or online at dicks.com.
''As I travel around the country, I see more and more young athletes who don't have the means to play, and it breaks my heart,'' says Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden, now an analyst for ESPN and an ambassador for Sports Matter. ''The green laces represent more than your average shoelaces. They are a tangible way to raise awareness and start conversation around this crisis, all while raising money for kids who really need it the most.''
Projections show that 27% of U.S. public high schools might not have any sports programs by 2020, according to Up2Us Sports, a New York-based non-profit. With billions of dollars slashed from youth sports budgets in recent years, DICK'S and its foundation have pledged more than $50 million to support teams and raise awareness of the issue. To date, the Sports Matter program has helped nearly 2,000 youth sports teams.
''Sports helped me get through some tough times in life, and taught me a lot about how to be a man on and off the field,'' says Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins. ''Kids need more chances in life, and I hate to imagine a world where sports aren't around to help kids stay out of trouble and succeed.''
Green shoelace users can show their support as well by taking a picture of their casual or athletic shoes or cleats laced up with green shoelaces and use (hash)SaveYouthSports. You can be sure Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs will make such a fashion statement.
''Seeing what kids are exposed to nowadays makes the positive influences of coaches and teams more important than ever,'' Diggs says. ''The opportunity to play sports is huge in a kid's life in so many ways, and not being able to afford joining a team is tragic.
''That's why I'll be standing with others who purchase green laces in support of Sports Matter, and proud to wear them during Week 13 on `Thursday Night Football.' `'
DICK'S foundation also will use money donated to help raise awareness for and support underfunded youth sports programs.
Other athletes involved in the program include Justise Winslow of the Miami Heat, Dexter Fowler of the Chicago Cubs (now a free agent), Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics, and Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets.
The initiative also includes a short film profile of the Fifth Ward Saints football organization outside of Houston. It shows the importance of football in the lives of generations of Houston-area kids. At the end of the film, DICK'S Foundation donates a $100,000 grant, including new equipment, as a gift.
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