Athletes Who Care
SI's 2017 Sportsperson of the Year founded the Justin J. Watt Foundation, a charity that provides after-school opportunities for children in different communities and aims to get them involved in athletics in a safe environment. With the Texans, Watt has frequently invited disabled and underprivileged children to games and practices. And on Aug. 26 of this year, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year launched a fund on YouCaring.com to raise money for victims of Hurricane Harvey with an initial goal of $200,000. Watt closed the fundraiser after raising an astonishing $37,097,298, which is more than 185 times his initial goal.
The recipient of SI's 2017 Muhammad Ali Legacy Award and one of the first NFL players to protest the national anthem, Kaepernick has devoted both his energy and his money to the causes he cares about. In '16, took the Million Dollar Pledge, a promise to donate $1 million to organizations dedicated to serving "oppressed" people and communities. He's continued to donate in increments to different organizations, ranging from Home2Heart, which helps provide beds and furniture to single mothers in Atlanta, to Coalition for the Homeless in New York. His website indicates that he has donated $900K of that $1M pledge so ar.
In 2017, dozens of athletes from Puerto Rico who have found success around the globe rallied to help their home island as it began to rebuild after Hurricane Maria. Beltran has raised nearly $1.5 million, with a $1 million donation of his own, to help the recovery effort and has been an outspoken advocate to raise awareness of the plight of Puerto Rico. He is the recipient of SI's 2017 Hope Award.
Williams has long been involved in the community through her Serena Williams Fund, which was established to promote equity through education and to assist victims of senseless violence. The foundation has built schools in Kenya and Jamaica and filled classrooms with supplies in Williams’s hometown of Compton. She also launched the Yetunde Price Resource Center to provide resources, referral and case management services to individuals and families affected by community violence.
The best basketball player in the world is no stranger to charity. In 2010, when James left Cleveland for Miami, he raised more than $3 million for Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the country. He also established the widely successful LeBron James Family Foundation, which aims to positively affect the lives of children through education and co-curricular educational initiatives. In '15, James’s foundation spent $41 million to send students from Akron to college for free. And in November, the school board in Akron approved a plan for the creation of a public school in partnership with the NBA star's foundation.
The youngest of four children born to a poor family, Cristiano Ronaldo has long been a generous giver of time and money. From paying for the brain surgery of a 10-year-old fan in 2010 to giving a reported $5 million to Nepal after the '15 earthquake, Ronaldo has quietly emerged as one of the most charitable faces in sports. In '15, he donated over $150,000 to a cancer center in Portugal. In October, Ronaldo raised over $600,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a charity that grants wishes to children with life-threatening or terminal illnesses, by selling his '13 Ballon d’Or award.
Granderson’s foundation, Grand Kids Foundation, benefits the education of inner-city children around the country. He holds clinics year-round in Chicago, New York and Florida, which not only teach kids baseball but lessons about hard work, dedication and how to be a leader. He brings groups of children to Mets games at Citi Field and has helped raise money for New York's City Harvest, United Neighborhood Houses, the USO of Metropolitan New York and the YMCA. Granderson also made a personal donation of $5 million toward the construction of a state-of-the-art indoor/outdoor baseball complex at the University of Illinois at Chicago, his alma mater, that is also used as an Urban Youth Academy.
Puig, Puerto Rico's best tennis player, set up a fundraiser to help her country’s victims of Hurricane Maria in September. To date, Puig’s fund has raised over $150,000. “I am heartbroken to wake up here in Tokyo this morning and see the devastation that Hurricane Maria caused in Puerto Rico,” Puig said at the time. “I promise to do everything in my power to help my beloved island and fellow Puerto Ricans to rebuild, heal and restore Puerto Rico.”
Bruce, a Beaumont, Texas native, partnered with his big league club, the Cleveland Indians, to raise over $200,000 for victims of Hurricane Harvey. “It’s people that care for each other, full Southern hospitality—that’s obviously showing with the rescue efforts going on down there—and most of all, it’s home. It’s home,” Bruce said. “That’s why it’s so important to me.”
In an essay on The Players’ Tribune, Oklahoma City's Carmelo Anthony announced a hurricane relief fundraiser for Puerto Rico. He kicked off the YouCaring campaign with a $50,000 donation of his own and the fund has raised nearly $500,000. "I’m half Puerto Rican, and I’m proud of it," he said in the essay. "Puerto Ricans are my people. But this is about more than that. Puerto Ricans are our fellow Americans. Puerto Ricans are our fellow man. They need our help."
This season the Texans' rookie gave his first career game check to three cafeteria workers who were still trying to recover from Hurricane Harvey. While in college, Watson met with Habitat for Humanity in South Carolina to create a plan for how he could be the face of the organization in the state. A child of government housing himself, Watson was honored with Habitat’s first Next Generation award.
After his home nation of Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, J.J. Barea took the Mavericks’ team plane to bring supplies and provide relief. He also started a YouCaring fund with his wife, Viviana Ortiz, that has raised more than $250,000.
The Rangers' goalie started his own foundation, an international grant-making organization with the mission statement to "create positive change in the lives of children and adults throughout the world through education and health services." He has partnered with the New York Presbyterian Children's Hospitals, the Ronald McDonald House in Sweden and Together for Better, an organization to help children in poverty in the Dominican Republic.
Avril promised to build a house in his native Haiti for each sack he had last season—and then he went out and bagged a career high 11 1⁄2 QBs. He rounded up and, along with a group of NFL players, built a dozen homes in the offseason, provided clean water to an orphanage and renovated a school.
Half of the Seahawks DE’s 2017 jersey sales profits are pledged to inner-city garden projects, and all of his endorsement earnings are tabbed for s.t.e.a.m. programs (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and charities focused on empowering minority women.
The Eagles DE gave his first six game checks this season—$375K—to fund scholarships in his hometown of Charlottesville, then promised the remaining $625K to launch his Pledge 10 for Tomorrow campaign, which will help make education more easily accessible to underserved youth.
Erratic as he may be on the field, the Giants QB has consistently been among the NFL’s most charitable athletes. He has helped raise more than $25 million for New York March for Babies (to fight premature birth), and his work with the Tackle Kids Cancer campaign has led to more than $1 million in fund-raising.
A former Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan, the Steelers’ left tackle is donating all the proceeds from his jersey sales to the United Service Organizations and other military nonprofits—just like he’s done in each of his past three seasons in the league. This year Villanueva also launched a line of "Big Al's Army" T-shirts, the proceeds from which he’ll donate to two military charities.