Since sports have become so widely popular around the world, professional athletes often find themselves at the center of the spotlight with a lot of attention on them. Because of this, players typically must be cautious to ensure that they do not end up in the news for the wrong reasons. However, this spotlight also gives them an opportunity to make an impact for the right reasons. For quite some time now, the National Football League has made strides focused on giving back to the community. Each franchise holds different events throughout the year aimed to give back to their respective community and make a positive impact. Whether its meeting with sick children at a local hospital or hosting a food drive, these teams look for different ways they can help give back.
It doesn’t stop there though. Players have taken it upon themselves to go even further and give back to their favorite charities and communities on their own as well. Many players throughout the league can be found raising money for charities and attending events to help get the foundations more publicity and raise awareness. Lots of players attempt to help raise awareness on the field. For example, the NFL allowed the players to wear custom cleats to raise awareness for different charities during the “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign. However, the most beneficial work has been done off the field.
A perfect example of this is the work that has been done this year by the Houston Texans linebacker J.J. Watt. He set a goal to raise $200,000 in efforts to provide relief for Hurricane Harvey victims. However, by the end of his fundraising campaign, he had managed to raise $37 million from over 200,000 donors. He distributed $31.5 million between Americares, Feeding America, SBP, and Save the Children in order to help rebuild homes, provide food, restore child-care centers, and address health needs of Hurricane Harvey victims in Houston and the surrounding areas. The other $7 million was set aside to be used in 2018 by the Justin J Watt Foundation as analyzing the relief efforts.
His actions helped the lives of many in his community, and younger players can learn a lot from players like him. He was recognized last week as a finalist for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award along with Greg Olsen and Benjamin Watson, who also did significant work off the field to give back to their communities. There are many other great examples of players who are using the attention and publicity they get to help make this world a better place. Examples like J.J. Watt show us how big of a difference one person can make when they use their influence and reach to help make a positive impact on their surroundings.