Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #178

Aug. 23 – Aug. 29, 2015

Welcome to week one hundred seventy-eight of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:

  1. The Legacy of the Original 9 (Billie Jean King from The Player’s Tribune)
  2. Playing through the pain; How football is helping polio survivors in northern Nigeria
  3. Tony Hawk Foundation, Chicago Fire Foundation and Doc Wayne Youth Services Win Inaugural RWJF Sports Award
  4. Justin Wren: The Big Pygmy Returns
  5. Maurice Clarett, the accidental athlete whisperer
  6. HIV – 0, Soccer – 1: Khayelitsha’s girls are kicking their way to health
  7. Sons of Katrina: Eddie Lacy, others recall aftermath of hurricane, flooding
  8. Late Justin Wilson Honored In IndyCar Motorcade On Golden Gate Bridge
  9. Watch fifth graders combat bullying of learning-disabled boy; bond over football
  10. Serena Williams’s Moment, Forever

Each and every week we are impressed with a new batch of stories. The reality is this: there is no shortage of people and organizations working to better themselves and others in their local community or half-way around the world. And thankfully their stories are starting to get told. Our goal is to give them greater reach. Whether it is highlighting a new endeavor, e.g. former college football star Maurice Clarett educating other young men facing challenges, or reflecting on a groundbreaking initiative from more than 40 years ago, i.e. the “Original 9”, we are given glimpses into very real struggles and the efforts to overcome them. We have regularly heard back from you, our readers, that these stories are quite inspirational and educational. You have also told us that you have been moved to act in support of those individuals and organizations highlighted and/or ones facing similar situations.

We are proud to feature this week: an amazing story of polio survivors finding joy in the beautiful game of football; the recognition of three wonderful organizations – Tony Hawk Foundation, Chicago Fire Foundation and Doc Wayne Youth Services; the story of Justin Wren and his search for meaning in his life and how his journey has brought him back to the MMA ring; the power of football in educating females about HIV/AIDS and what they can do to protect themselves; exposes of various athletes significantly impacted 10 years ago by Hurricane Katrina and the way they maintain a connection with their original/adopted hometown of New Orleans; a moving memorial in honor of the late Justin Wilson by his IndyCar brethren; an uplifting video of 5 kids coming together to support one of their classmates and make him part of their “team”; and a look at one of the greatest athletes ever, tennis star Serena Williams.

Finally, we want to let you know about next month’s 2015 Global Peace Games for Children and Youth.  This is the 15th consecutive year the Games will be held. Last year organizations across 6 continents in 35 countries participated, involving thousands of children, youth and communities.  Play Soccer Nonprofit International (PSNI) hopes to continue to grow participation in this unique grassroot event that enables participation in the global agenda for human development, understanding and peace. Please join the team for the 2015 Global Peace Games for children and Youth! Contact to register or visit the website

Please continue to send along your stories. You are both our audience and our best source of stories. Our Twitter handle is @sportsdoinggood, and you can find us at

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

The Legacy of the Original 9 (Billie Jean King from The Player’s Tribune)
Forty-five years ago, nine of us gathered in Houston, Texas facing one of the most important decisions of our tennis careers and our lives. The group included seven Americans — Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Julie Heldman, Peaches Barkowitz, Kristy Pigeon and me. We were joined by two Australians — Kerry Melville Reid and Judy Tegart Dalton. History dubbed us the Original 9 and our actions, along with those of former World Tennis Magazine publisher Gladys Heldman, created women’s professional tennis as we know it today. We wanted to be paid equally and we wanted to be treated fairly. Originally we had hoped to partner with the men’s tennis tour and have a unified voice in the sport on a global basis. But the guys wanted no part of it. And not every women’s player wanted to join us. So we went to plan B. For a tense few days in September 1970, we sat in a semicircle in Gladys’ home in Houston and debated the pros and cons of breaking away and starting our own tour. For us, everything was at risk. The USLTA (now the USTA, the governing body of tennis in this country) threatened us with suspension and expulsion. The Australians faced an even stronger enemy in their federation. They were told if they signed with us, their playing days were over.

Playing through the pain; How football is helping polio survivors in northern Nigeria
“Para-soccer is a sport that requires dedication,” he explains. “We need to be in good shape in order to play and avoid injuries, although this is sometimes inevitable. The asphalt burns and we have no protectors.” For these polio survivors, para-soccer has become a source of strength and freedom. Somewhere between the ball, the skateboard and the hard ground, they have carved a space of their own. Created in 1988, by Nigerian polio survivor Misbahu Lawan Didi, the sport has few financial sponsors, but has spread to other countries on the continent. Abdul and Sanusi’s team plays against other polio survivors’ teams in the national leagues, as well as in the international leagues against Niger, Cameroon, and Ghana.

Abdul, right, contracted polio as a child and is one of the para-soccer team’s goalkeepers [Diego Ibarra Sanchez/MeMo]

Tony Hawk Foundation, Chicago Fire Foundation and Doc Wayne Youth Services Win Inaugural RWJF Sports Award
The three recipients have been awarded this honor for their innovative and influential approaches to using sports to build a Culture of Health in their communities. Approaches may include: using sports to help children with social and emotional learning, providing spaces for children to be active, and utilizing sports to help children with mental health challenges. The Sports Award builds on the former Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy, presented by RWJF for the past decade by placing a greater emphasis on collaboration across communities and sectors to build a Culture of Health, the Foundation’s core vision. “We congratulate our three winning organizations,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of RWJF, “for their dedication to building a Culture of Health and their passion for giving back to their communities. Their creative approaches to using sports to help people of all ages grow and stay healthy will help their communities thrive now and for generations to come.”–chicago-fire-foundation–and-doc-wayne-you.html

Tony Hawk Foundation skatepark in San Pedro, California. Photo by Miki Vuckovich/© Tony Hawk Foundation

Justin Wren: The Big Pygmy Returns
He created a foundation, Fight for the Forgotten. He helped purchase 2,470 acres of land that was given to the Pygmies. They began digging water wells, one at a time. Today, Fight for the Forgotten has dug 25 wells, with more on the way. He began working with agriculturists, bringing seeds to the region and teaching the Pygmies how to grow and harvest their own crops. He helped create a food source that did not exist before he arrived the first time. The Pygmies, once fearful of the massive Wren, accepted him as one of their own. They gave him two names: Efeosa, which means “the man who loves us,” and Mbuti MangBo, which means “the big pygmy.” (Wren is 6’3″, 265 pounds.) He was given his own Pygmy family. He continued to grow Fight for the Forgotten; today, the organization has 20 full-time employees.

Maurice Clarett, the accidental athlete whisperer
When finished, FSU players and coaches give Clarett a standing ovation. Coach Jimbo Fisher tells the team Clarett delivered one of the most “real” talks he has heard in 28 years in the game. Tight ends coach Tim Brewster, a Denver Broncos assistant during Clarett’s brief time as a Broncos draft pick, congratulates Clarett on “an amazing success story.” Associate head coach Odell Haggins, seated in the front row, says it’s one of the most inspiring speeches he has heard in 22 years at FSU. “This man is keeping it real with y’all,” Haggins tells the players. “This is true love speaking to you. I use the word love. Listen to the man.” They’re listening. Thirteen years after a record-setting freshman season at Ohio State and nine years after a descent into crime branded him as one of college football’s tragic figures, Maurice Clarett is once again impacting the sport. This time, through a message that must be heard.

After Maurice Clarett spoke to Florida State players, Coach Jimbo Fisher praised the former Ohio State star’s message. Adam Rittenberg/

HIV – 0, Soccer – 1: Khayelitsha’s girls are kicking their way to health
These miniscule beings – all eyes and questions – are just some of the dozens of children you’ll meet at the Football for Hope centre in Khayelitsha. Opened in 2010, a year when all eyes were on football in South Africa, the centre was the culmination of a yearlong collaboration involving the Football for Hope movement, Grassroot Soccer, the Khayelitsha Development Forum, and numerous supporters and funders. It was the first of 20 similar centres that would be built in economically disadvantaged communities across Africa as part of Football for Hope’s 20 Centres for 2010, the official campaign of the 2010 World Cup. Most recently, it has become home to SKILLZ Banyana, Grassroot Soccer’s latest initiative. Daily Maverick has previously reported on the work of Grassroot Soccer, which uses soccer as a tool in HIV/Aids prevention. GRS relies on hundreds of young role model educators throughout Africa to connect with young people at risk of developing HIV/Aids, also incorporating testing, awareness raising and social support. Last week, in honour of Women’s Month, they launched SKILLZ Banyana, their new programme aimed specifically at girls.

Sons of Katrina: Eddie Lacy, others recall aftermath of hurricane, flooding
One athlete was deep into his NBA career. Another was playing college football. Three were just kids too young to really think about pro careers. But for all of them, sports took a back seat in late August 2005 to the realities and destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Saturday marks the 10-year anniversary of the devastating storm that ravaged New Orleans and other areas along the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in more than 1,200 deaths. For a handful of athletes that Yahoo Sports spoke to about the tragic events, much of their Katrina stories revolve around the immediate and/or lasting impact the hurricane had on their families, particularly their parents. Here’s a brief collection of tales of the hardship and triumph experienced by an NBA rookie, NFL rookie, two NFL veterans and a retired NBA player with ties to New Orleans:–eddie-lacy–others-recall-experiences-during-deadly-hurricane-001741223.html

The Katrina stories of these athletes revolve around the impact the hurricane had on their families, particularly their parents.

Late Justin Wilson Honored In IndyCar Motorcade On Golden Gate Bridge
As a tribute to Wilson, a motorcade of IndyCars and Holmatro Safety vehicles crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on Thursday with the Astor Cup. It will be awarded to the champion when the season ends this weekend in Sonoma. Wilson’s Andretti Autosport teammate, Marco Andretti (grandson of Mario, son of Michael), led the group in Wilson’s No. 25 car. Two Holmatro Safety vehicles, the same that were on site at the Pocono crash, flew Justin Wilson flags from the back of their trucks. Drivers Will Power, Graham Rahal, Josef Newgarden and James Hinchcliffe also participated in the motorcade. Wilson, a native of England, was 37. He was the first IndyCar rider to die in action since Dan Wheldon in 2011. A charity, Wilson’s Children’s Fund, has been established on behalf of his family.

Watch fifth graders combat bullying of learning-disabled boy; bond over football
Here’s a heartwarming sports-related tale as the nation’s youth shuffle back to school. This video from USA Today’s “Inspiration Nation,” first published in June, followed a group of then-fifth graders in Mankato, Minnesota, who noticed their classmate James was getting teased about his learning disability. “Why pick on someone who has special needs?” they asked. So good guys Gus, Tyler, Landon, Jake and Jack took James under their wing, found a common love of sports, and made them one of their own. The video only touches on it briefly, but it appears James may be somewhat of a college football savant. But more importantly, good on the kids for helping James emerge from a shell and making him part of the team.

Serena Williams’s Moment, Forever
There is, of course, more to it than that. As a black woman from Compton in a sport whose roots are affluent and white, Serena has always meant more to tennis, has always burned more intensely within the game, than her career trajectory alone would suggest. She has presented a threat to tennis fans opposed to change, and tennis fans have sometimes presented a threat to her. Her career has felt larger than life partly because of its transformative power and partly because of the drama that power has awakened in stadiums, over and over again: Rarely in the history of modern sports has a figure of such obvious strength seemed to stand so often in a kind of atmospheric peril. The strength was greater than the peril, and that’s one thing, apart from her talent, that she has given us. Serena wears so many of her meanings on the surface. Her race. Her gender. Her elegance. Her background. Her resilience. These, or whatever synonyms or near-synonyms you want to substitute for them, are political attributes by nature, and Serena is a political figure, a representative figure, simply by virtue of being herself and doing what she does.

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