Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #192

Dec. 6 – Dec. 12, 2015

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

  1. Hockey in the Mountains, a High Point in Their Lives
  2. Could “The Fastest Man In Rugby” Lead Team USA To A Medal In Rio?
  3. Defector José Abreu will headline MLB team making historic trip to Cuba
  4. LeBron James transitioning from businessman to a business, man
  5. How the first turbaned NCAA basketball player responded to becoming a racist meme
  6. New Balance Kicks Off the Season of Giving With Shoe Donation Campaign
  7. Alex Morgan steps forward as vocal leader of U.S. women’s national team
  8. Dan Carter: The Return to the Top (The Players’ Tribune)
  9. Street Child World Cup wins inaugural Football for Good – Game Changer Award
  10. “90 MINUTES FOR HOPE” Raises funds for child refugees in Europe

In sports we often hear about “stepping up” at a crucial time in a game or season. It implies that something more is required and a player or team is going to find a way to meet the challenge facing them. We have seen it in every sport and at every level – youth, high school, college, and the pros. We also have seen it happen off the field of play as well. When we see a wrong in society, we see everyone, not just famous or rich persons, but everyone, try to fix a problem and right that wrong. We see it all the time and this week was no exception.

The story that really caught our eye involves U.S. soccer star Alex Morgan. Known as a world-class player, Morgan has “stepped up” to advocate for her teammates and female athletes overall. Whether she is speaking about playing conditions or even accommodations when traveling as a member of the women’s pro league in the U.S., Morgan is doing what we increasingly expect from our athletes, and that is taking a stand when they see something that is not right. As the article points out, this has been a wonderful year for women’s sports and we anticipate that these athletes and others will increasingly find their voice to ensure that the progress we are seeing continues.

There were several other stories involving athletes and organizations stepping up, including: U.S. rugby star Carlin Isles; Chicago White Sox player Jose Abreu; the one and only LeBron James; former college basketball player Darsh Singh and friend Greg Worthington; New Zealand rugby star Dan Carter; the good folks at the Street Child World Cup; and the European Club Association and its terrific “90 Minutes for Hope” efforts. Finally, we have a story that features a wonderful partnership between New Balance and the non-profit Good Sports; as well as a look at a breathtaking locale for a pick-up hockey game.

We want to finish by congratulating our friends at Peace and Sport for putting on another terrific International Forum. It has been eight years strong that they have been bringing thought leaders and practitioners together. Kudos.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Hockey in the Mountains, a High Point in Their Lives
With the weather providing a 24-hour window to pull off the game, Friesen took care of the logistics (travel and videography), while Malhotra was responsible for recruiting the high-level local players. He was able to corral a mix of former college, American Hockey League and N.H.L. players. Along with the 15 players, three helicopters took turns shuttling in videographers, camera equipment, a half-dozen spectators, and even three Vancouver Canucks Ice Girls to assist with the ice maintenance. As the skies cleared around noon, the final helicopter came up over the horizon. “We’re all standing at the lake, and here comes the helicopter with like a 12-foot line holding all of our gear and the two nets, and it just drops it on the ice,” said Angel, who called the day one of the top five moments in his life. “That in itself was a sight.” For the next three hours, spirited four-on-four games played out on top of transparent black ice that was six and a half inches thick. With the sun dominating the sky, an abundance of cameras — from GoPros on drones to sideline cellphones — documented the surreal event.

A group of high-level hockey players recently played three hours of four-on-four games in the mountains of British Columbia. Credit Shayd Johnston

Could “The Fastest Man In Rugby” Lead Team USA To A Medal In Rio?
Isles, 25, is one of the stars on a U.S. rugby sevens team that has become among the best in the world. This past weekend in Dubai, the Eagles (as the U.S. rugby teams are named) beat New Zealand twice and South Africa once en route to a third-place finish in the first tournament of the HSBC Sevens World Series, the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens. The United States had never before beaten New Zealand. To many, the U.S. victory was stunning. Longtime Eagles standout Zack Test told a reporter after the game, “It’s a monumental step for us.” USA Sevens Rugby tweeted, “Don’t look now, but the Sleeping Giant of international rugby just woke up.” Add that to the fact the U.S. team already qualified to play in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games and is coming off a victory in the Marriott London Sevens Cup Final in May, and Isles says the Americans now have to be considered among the world’s best teams — and a threat to win a medal in Rio. “We feel like we can beat everybody,” Isles said. “Especially from London where we were No. 1 overall. Now we expect to win. … We’re just ready to show the world what we can do.”

Carlin Isles runs towards the try zone to score against Uruguay on Jan. 26, 2014 in Las Vegas.

Defector José Abreu will headline MLB team making historic trip to Cuba
A team of Major League Baseball players will be heading for Cuba for a Goodwill Tour later this month, and as many as four big-league players born on the island nation will be returning – some of whom left in secret under dangerous circumstances. The biggest Cuban name on the tour, which is being led by Hall of Famers Joe Torre and Dave Winfield, is Chicago White Sox slugger, José Abreu, who has not been back to the island since he defected. His return just a couple of years after leaving is historic considering Cuba usually doesn’t allow defectors back on the island for at least eight years. A star for the Cuban national team, Abreu disappeared in the summer of 2013 and turned up a few weeks in Haiti, having fled in the middle of the night on a small boat that barely survived a harrowing 12-hour journey through 15-foot surf. The 28-year-old first baseman’s son, Dariel, still lives on the island. The Cuban government’s decision to allow defectors to visit is rare considering the government denounces ballplayers who flee the island as traitors and bars them from the national team, according to the New York Times.

Jose Abreu after hitting a home run in 2014. He is the first Baseman for the Chicago White Sox. (Getty Images)

LeBron James transitioning from businessman to a business, man
But James has always had a talent for being able to take in a wider perspective and think for the longer term, even when many around him do not. It’s the same skill that allows him to see two passes ahead on the floor or the driving lane no one else notices. Which is how James arrived at last Monday, when he and Nike announced his signing of a lifetime contract. The deal, worth hundreds of millions on top of the hundreds of millions that Nike has already paid him in their 13-plus years together, was negotiated over the course of months, but it has really been under construction for years. When James signed his last Nike deal, in 2010, it included provisions to protect him. So when Kevin Durant signed a 10-year deal with Nike last summer for a reported $300 million after a bidding war with Under Armour, James knew he was going to be in position for a historic deal. The timing, like so many of his cross-court bounce passes, was impeccable. Nike is having one of the best financial years in its history, is the best-performing stock of the year on Dow Jones and has astronomical growth projections.

LeBron James signed a historic deal last week to put Nikes on his feet for the rest of his life. Steve Dykes/AP Photo

How the first turbaned NCAA basketball player responded to becoming a racist meme
Anyway, Greg Worthington wasn’t about to let his buddy be the subject of a dumb racist joke, so he took to Facebook to set things straight: “I know this guy and his name’s not ‘Muhammad.’ He’s not Arab, he’s Punjabi. He’s not even Muslim, he’s a Sikh. His name is Darsh Singh and he’s a US citizen, born and bred. That jersey he’s wearing in this pic, it currently sits in a Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC because he made US history as the NCAA’s first turbaned Sikh American basketball player for Trinity University in my hometown of San Antonio. He was co-captain of that team when he played there. He’s worked in US Intelligence with the National Security Agency in the past and currently manages financial portfolios and hedge funds for some of the most compassionate companies in the US. Above all those things, he’s a really nice guy, very funny, and he’s a great friend of my younger brother whom I was more than happy to befriend myself.” Worthington’s post quickly went viral, and now Singh has penned an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News thanking Worthington for his support:

New Balance Kicks Off the Season of Giving With Shoe Donation Campaign
Today, on global Giving Tuesday, New Balance is kicking off a month-long campaign to celebrate the spirit and importance of giving. For each #NBgivesback Instagram or Twitter post showing a consumer’s shoe donation to an organization of their choice, New Balance will donate $5.00, with a maximum of $100,000, to Good Sports, Inc. to help provide brand new sports and fitness equipment for children in high poverty communities across the United States. The promotion begins on Giving Tuesday and continues through the month of December. To participate, during the month of December, consumers may select an organization or donation point of their choice, take a photo of the shoes being donated, and post it to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #NBgivesback. Consumers can track the campaign’s progress by searching with the hashtag or following @NBgivesback on Instagram. Today and throughout the month of December, Team NB members including track and field athletes Jenny Simpson, Emma Coburn, and Trayvon Bromell; tennis star Heather Watson; and baseball players Curtis Granderson, Francisco Cervelli, and R.A. Dickey will be posting their own photos to spread the word to their fans and followers about this simple and easy way to turn an old pair of athletic shoes into a tangible way to help children discover their love of movement.

Emma Coburn Giving Tuesday

Alex Morgan steps forward as vocal leader of U.S. women’s national team
This has been a landmark year in women’s sports, from Serena Williams to Lydia Ko to Carli Lloyd to Holly Holm and Ronda Rousey. Yet Morgan has contributed to that in her own significant way. She has won a World Cup, yes, but she has also taken important stands when necessary. She has not been loud or shrill about it. She has been thoughtful and clear. “She’s got that strength of character that if she has an opinion, to be able to express that opinion, and express it without any bias,” new Orlando Pride coach Tom Sermanni said. “She has a view, she will express that view. For me, that’s an asset.” It’s especially an asset in the go-along-to-get-along culture of women’s sports. Airing grievances on the men’s side is almost expected. On the women’s side? Not as much. Criticism of women is quicker and harsher, especially women who make a lot of money, as Morgan does.

The USWNT torch has already been passed from Wambach to Morgan. (Getty Images)

Dan Carter: The Return to the Top (The Players’ Tribune)
There was a lot of pressure heading into our last game before the World Cup, both for the team and certainly for myself. We were facing Australia in a do-or-die match for the Bledisloe Cup. This is something the two countries compete for every year, and I hadn’t lost it since I began playing with the All-Blacks in 2003. If we didn’t win the game, and I was part of the reason why, my odds of making the World Cup roster, which was set to be announced the following week, would probably be shot. In a lot of ways, the journey I’d taken since 2013 to rebuild myself as a rugby player had all led to that point, and something inside of me kind of clicked. We won the match 41-13 and I turned in one of my best international performances. I knew that I was back, and the following week I was told I’d be manning the fly-half position when we competed for the World Cup in England. In retrospect, you couldn’t have written a more perfect script for how the tournament played out.

Photograph by Getty Images

Street Child World Cup wins inaugural Football for Good – Game Changer Award
The UN estimates there are 150 million children at risk of the streets worldwide; these are children living on, working in or at risk of the streets. These children are often stigmatised, vulnerable to violence, abuse and exploitation and suffer multiple violations of their rights. The most recent Street Child World Cup, in association with Save the Children, took place ahead of the Brazil FIFA World Cup in April 2014. Over 230 former street children from 19 countries came together for 10 days in Rio de Janeiro, to play football and stand together for their rights. The message from the children was clear: I AM SOMEBODY. Street Child World Cup received the support of Pope Francis, Prince William Duke of Cambridge, David Beckham and Zico. As a result, teams of street children have been recognised and consulted by their governments and legislative change has been achieved.

“90 MINUTES FOR HOPE” Raises funds for child refugees in Europe
As part of an initiative called “90 MINUTES FOR HOPE”, the European Club Association asked the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League Group Stage participants to donate EUR 1 for every ticket sold during their first European home match. ECA’s pan-European campaign involving clubs from across the continent is the first of its kind and complements the many projects already undertaken by clubs individually at local, regional and national level. The initiative raised EUR 1.3 million. The money will benefit Save the Children and UNICEF’s responses to the European refugee crisis. Commenting on the current refugee crisis, ECA Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said: “As important stakeholders within society, we cannot close our eyes to the dramatic scenes currently affecting the lives of many children. We are proud to see many European clubs joining our “90 MINUTES FOR HOPE” campaign and are very pleased to donate the money raised to Save the Children and UNICEF, two organisations tirelessly working to support desperate refugee children and their families in Europe these days.”

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Our goal is to have Sports Doing Good be a portal housing original content and excerpts from and links to the increasing number of articles, websites, video, and other media that showcase the good in sports and society. We aim to celebrate those concepts, activities, events, and individuals by highlighting them for a wider audience. Much of the news today, whether sports- related or not, is incredibly negative and increasingly polarizing, biased, and quite annoying. We are trying to refocus some of the discussion on the good, with a focus on sports.

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