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the professional athlete : champions off the field

Redux Extra February 3, 2021
Reading Time: 2 minutes

As the holidays near, it occurs to me that we are lucky to have the distraction of sports as we navigate the volatile pandemic terrain. It should be noted, however, that we are not only lucky to have sports to watch, but we are also lucky to have the athletes themselves.

On the surface, we see a professional athlete as the embodiment of skill, strength, poise and power. All of those descriptors are applicable, but what we fail to realize is that many of them are champions off the field as well. There are countless athletes that champion social justice causes and give back to charities or even establish their own charitable foundations. Notable names include LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo, Russell Wilson, Eli Manning, Serena Williams, J.J. Watt and Tiger Woods. Athletes such as these not only contribute to charities but in many cases establish their own charities and foundations, to ensure that their dollars are going to the right places. LeBron James, as an example, has spent the better part of two decades giving back to disadvantaged children and assisting in establishing schools for at-risk youth.

I wanted to dig a little deeper on the mentality of the charitable athlete, and in that vein, I sat down with Robert Griffin III, current Baltimore Raven and former member of the Washington Football Team for a virtual interview. (You can find the interview on the Win Daily Sports YouTube channel or by searching “Win Daily RG3.”) Griffin and I spoke at length about his foundation, The RG3 Foundation, and how he uses his platform to influence social justice and give back to the less privileged, including at-risk youth and military families.

In our interview, he asked people to donate to the foundation — even if it’s just a dollar — and allow his people to be the “foot soldiers” to bring about change. Griffin is also a staunch advocate for social justice and uses his social media platforms, where literally millions of people follow him, to speak change into existence. Ultimately, when it comes to his foundation and his passion to effect change, Griffin stated he wants to “make our communities a better place.” Speaking for many professional athletes, he further stated, “Although I can’t change the world by myself, if I’m trying to change the world for the better, that’s a step in the right direction.”

Griffin exemplifies just one drop of an entire ocean full of athletes that directly influence change through their actions and causes, and yet, we almost never hear about the good that they are doing. Instead, we constantly hear about the trouble spots for athletes because for whatever reason, an athlete’s failings are more newsworthy than an athlete’s contribution to a better society.

So as we gather over holiday dinners and marvel at the majesty and skill of all things sports, let’s not forget that when the game is over, many athletes continue to fight for those who are seemingly unable to fight for themselves. They do so with little fanfare and with little attention. Maybe it’s time we start paying attention — and maybe even joining in the fight.

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