Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #212

April 24 – April 30, 2016

Welcome to week two hundred and twelve of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:

  1. A remarkable family affair for Whiteside in Charlotte
  2. Ravens WR Steve Smith Makes a Dream Come True, Escorts Teen with Autism to Prom
  3. U-16 Girls Play Historic Match in Italy
  4. How Nigel Sylvester Used the Internet to Turn Himself into a Business, Man
  5. The Rise of Basketball in Rwanda (Photo Essay)
  6. Steph Curry launches Call Your Shot challenge to end malaria
  7. NFL Linebacker Encourages Men to Speak Up Against Sexual Assault in Powerful Essay
  8. Worth the Price of 92 Admissions: Entry into a Stadium Fan Club
  9. What is beyond Rio 2016 for sport for development in Brazil?
  10. Fuller House: A look at one of the NFL’s most fascinating families

Keenan Reynolds – The Right Play (The Players’ Tribune)
Love the journey (NAYS)
Sport for Good celebrated at Laureus World Sports Awards (Laureus)
Olympic Legend Michael Johnson Unveils New ‘POSITIVE TRACK’ Initiative (Beyond Sport)

We start and end the ten stories we feature this week with ones dealing with family. In the first, NBA player Hassan Whiteside’s network of siblings, friends, and of course, his mom, has served as his support system. But it has not been one-sided with Hassan as he is constantly there for them and others, for example, the young friend he mentors. Whiteside’s story is not a linear one in which things have always worked out in his favor. Family is there during those tougher times and that is certainly true with the Whiteside’s.

The other family story we highlight involves the Fuller brothers and their parents. Imagine having all four of your sons reach their dreams, in this case, the dream of being an NFL player. And imagine each brother wanting the next brother to do even better than him. Well, that is the story of the Fullers, who remain incredibly humble and driven to succeed and to help each other.

What we saw in the Whiteside and Fuller stories was a supportive culture in which achieving success did not come as the expense of someone else. There was and is room for everyone to grow and a support structure that believes that is sure to succeed. And it does not have to be family per se. It can be others who have gone through similar events. Or those who share a love of a particular sport or activity and see in each other who they want to be. Many of the stories at Sports Doing Good fit this reality and we have such stories this week as well.

The stories we are including this week involve: NFL star Steve Smith and a fan pairing up for a high school prom; the U-16 U.S. national girls soccer team and its historic game against their peers from Iran; the emergence of bicyclist, and brand, Nigel Sylvester (w/ video); powerful images that capture the rise of basketball in Rwanda; NBA MVP Steph Curry and his ongoing efforts to ensure the health of those in Africa; a call-to-action by DeAndre Levy for his NFL and pro sports colleagues when it comes to ending sexual assault; the special club that exists for those who express their love for the beautiful game in England by visiting all of its venues; and the opportunities to do good in Rio and Brazil after the Olympics are there this summer.

Finally, we want to let you know about a fun and meaningful event coming up in NYC. Soccer Without Borders is celebrating 10 years of playing for change in the USA and abroad. The event will feature the premiere of a new short film directed by Silas Hagerty, produced by Ryan Hawke, and narrated by Ethan Hawke about refugee youth experiences coming to America and finding a new home in Soccer Without Borders. For more information, please visit:

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

A remarkable family affair for Whiteside in Charlotte
Before the game, Hassan Whiteside looked for them in their seats, just to check. There they all were, too. There was the uncle who was wrongfully imprisoned for 25 years watching Whiteside play Saturday for the first time. There was the teenager who was dabbling in trouble when Whiteside began counseling him six years ago — yes, Whiteside is the counselor in this relationship — and says, “Hassan changed me.” There were four of his six brothers and their families, from Danny, the oldest, to Anthony, two years older and Whiteside’s first challenge, the guy he couldn’t beat on the courts in their hometown of Gastonia, N.C. And there at the center of everyone was his mother, Debbie, a single mother who worked four jobs to stitch together a living and chuckles when people tell the remarkable story of Hassan’s rise to NBA stardom. “They don’t know the half of it,” she said. She chuckles again and shakes her head.

Debbie Whiteside, mother of Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside watches her son play the Charlotte Hornets while sitting next to Caleb Holman, 17, who Hassan mentored for about 6 years. They attended Game 3, Saturday, April 23, 2016, at Time Warner Cable Arena. (Michael Laughlin / Sun Sentinel)

Ravens WR Steve Smith Makes a Dream Come True, Escorts Teen with Autism to Prom
When Baltimore Ravens receiver Steve Smith found out that North Carolina teen Aubrey Bridges wanted to go to prom with him, the veteran wideout had just one question. What day is it? As long as he was available, he was more than happy to make the young girl’s dream come true. And the Dream On 3 foundation helped make it happen. Bridges, an 18-year-old who has autism and a rare disorder called vein of Galen malformation, saw Smith dancing in a video one time and thought he would make a great prom date. Little did she know at the time she would wind up getting an up-close look at the NFL star’s dance moves. Once Smith—who tore his Achilles in November—saw that he was available to escort Bridges to prom, he made things happen. Even though he wasn’t the one in high school, he wanted to be a gentleman and be the one who did the asking. The 36-year-old Raven made a video promposal, and the rest is history. Bridges wound up being named prom queen, putting a ribbon on a night to remember.

U-16 Girls Play Historic Match in Italy
Italy may seem like an odd place to host historic U.S. Women’s National Team matches, but for the third time in 31 years, the country that features one of the world’s greatest sporting landmarks – the famed Colosseum in Rome – has done just that. Jesolo, Italy played host to the first U.S. Women’s National Team match in 1985, and in 2010, Padova was the site of the Women’s World Cup first leg playoff match in which the USA defeated Italy, 1-0, on a late goal from a young Alex Morgan. It was a victory that spurred the USA to the 2011 Women’s World Cup where it almost won the tournament before falling in penalty kicks to Japan. Now, on April 26, 2016, in Monfalcone, Italy, the U.S. Under-16 Girls’ National Team broke new ground, becoming the first U.S. Women’s National Team at any level to face a team from the Middle East. The fact that the USA defeated Iran, 6-0, in the 1st International Women’s Tournament of Gradisca – a tournament that has existed for boys’ U-15 teams for 13 years but is being played for the first time as a girls’ competition – is a side-note to the significance of the match, which is representative of the growth of women’s soccer worldwide. While there is still a massive amount of work to be done in the development of the women’s game in many corners of the globe, and especially in the Middle East, the fact that girls’ teams from the USA and Iran could compete in an official tournament in Europe is a sign of things to come.

How Nigel Sylvester Used the Internet to Turn Himself into a Business, Man
In this sense, Sylvester’s not only an athlete, but for his films, he’s an artist. It’s fitting, given that he’ll refer to his bike as his paintbrush, his environment as his canvas and his recorded tricks as his art. “My bike is like my paintbrush in a sense, in that I’m able to draw certain visuals and express that to the world and share it with the people,” he told HuffPost. He then moved the conversation to explain how, as an artist, he repurposes what’s in front of him. “When the bicycle was first created, I’m sure it wasn’t meant to do what we’re doing now with it. Just like how when I ride a handrail, that handrail wasn’t meant for riding, it was meant just to hold onto for safety,” he said…Sylvester believes that if more people understood his process — he’s not some dopey skater kid who aimlessly rides around causing mischief for people trying to use handrails — they’d appreciate his line of work more. Behind his art, there are meticulous calculations, in-depth location scoutings and strenuous practices. Like any athlete preparing to take the field, he studies his game plan before executing it. It’s just that nobody’s reporting on him daily, tweeting injury updates morning, noon and night. (Well, unless they’re from his Twitter or Instagram.)
(Video,  Caption: Sylvester’s latest video series, “GO!,” takes viewers for a ride around the world’s cities from his perspective.

The Rise of Basketball in Rwanda (Photo Essay)
In Rwanda, people have been showing up in masses to an unlikely and uncommon place: the basketball court. Like most of the world, Rwandans love soccer. But for the past three years basketball has emerged as a new favorite, especially among people under the age of 25, who make up 67% of the country’s population. The story of Rwanda’s hoop culture consists of much more than just the game itself. The courts are different compared to your blacktops in Harlem—what with goats feeding on the sidelines and banana trees lining the baseline. But courts also act as schools and community centers where health professionals, politicians and local organizations show up to influence the younger generation as the country tries to move forward from its genocidal past. A Boston based NGO, Shooting Touch, is fostering the emergence of the sport with the deliberate goal of using the game to educate. They have built five courts in Rwanda’s Eastern Province, strategically placing them next to HIV/AIDS testing facilities, libraries, and hospitals. They organize massive tournaments attracting hundreds of players, spectators, government officials and local celebrities while giving lectures on malaria prevention, gender based violence and basic health tips during half time.

Pasifique Mutabazi, 14, shoots a free throw in Nyamirama, Rwanda.

Steph Curry launches Call Your Shot challenge to end malaria
That’s why Curry, with support from Malaria No More and USAID, helped launch the Call Your Shot campaign prior to World Malaria Day (April 25). The concept is simple: film – and make – your version of a trick shot (basketball or otherwise), share it with the #CallYourShot hashtag and challenge your friends to donate at President Obama, who has worked with Curry on other initiatives and is adamant about making this a legacy issue, mentioned the fight against malaria in his final State of the Union. The concept was years in the making. Curry first went to the White House in February 2015 to speak on behalf of the President’s Malaria Initiative, which has increased its annual appropriations to effected areas since 2009. They kept the conversation going later in August when the two golfed together … and Obama chauffeured the newly-crowned NBA champion. The Warriors were honoured at the White House in February, and Obama singled out Curry, who had scored 51 points on 11 three-pointers the night before. “That’s 33 nets, so keep shooting Steph,” Obama quipped.

NFL Linebacker Encourages Men to Speak Up Against Sexual Assault in Powerful Essay
Levy, who’s played in the NFL for five years, published an insightful and important essay on sexual assault and the definition of consent this past Wednesday on The Players’ Tribune. In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month this April, the 29-year-old described why men need to be active and vocal allies for women by speaking out against sexual violence. “It’s truly astounding how many awful things that occur in this world because men are afraid of appearing weak,” Levy wrote. Although the past few years has brought attention to the high rate of violence perpetrated by male athletes — particularly in the NFL — Levy explained that it’s not just men in sports who need to have this discussion. “The dehumanization and objectification of women are not issues that are specific to male athletes. They are societal problems,” he wrote. “But they tend to be more associated with athletes in part because we are often idolized because of our athletic ability. In many ways, we’re considered models of masculinity, which is at the very root of a lot of these issues.”

DeAndre Levy is asking male athletes to “man up” and become allies for women.  Leon Halip via Getty Images

Worth the Price of 92 Admissions: Entry into a Stadium Fan Club
Bristow runs a website,, which caters to fans looking to complete the challenge, whether on their own terms, like Wilson, or by following the 92 Club rules. currently has 9,337 member profiles. Of those, 129 have completed the current 92; 42 have completed the 92 at some point; and 19, including Weiler, stand on 91. To be accepted into the club, fans must submit a form detailing one match at each current stadium: date, opponent, competition, score and attendance. (The club relies heavily on the honor system, since there is little to gain by cheating.) If verified, that fan receives a package of items that includes a tie, a lapel pin, a membership card and a list of other members. Membership is for life, meaning that once accepted a fan remains in the club even as the list of 92 stadiums evolves. (Visiting new stadiums season after season is not compulsory, but it is encouraged.)

Soccer memorabilia that Weiler has collected over the years. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

What is beyond Rio 2016 for sport for development in Brazil?
Social Starters, an international volunteering and enterprise development programme, has developed a Sport Inspiration programme launching in August that will put the spotlight on the projects working with communities through sport in Rio amidst the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The programme will bring sport enthusiasts and aspiring social changers to Rio, connecting them with a range of Brazilian sports projects that can provide inspiration for those wanting to develop their own sport and community development projects and social businesses back home. Um Rio, a sport development project using rugby to engage disadvantaged children and young people is an example of a programme that has been looking to create impact beyond Rio 2016 for the last three years. Robert Malengreau, Um Rio’s founder, is determined that the work of the NGO in the favela community where they are based must have a much longer term vision than Rio 2016 to create impact.

Discovering the sports and community development projects that are working to create a lasting legacy beyond Rio 2016.

Fuller House: A look at one of the NFL’s most fascinating families
The Fuller brothers were all raised in the same modest stone-and-aluminum-siding house around the corner from Woodlawn High (a school that figured prominently in the true crime podcast Serial; Vincent II was one year behind Adnan Syed), they all attended Virginia Tech, and they all have spotless reputations. They’ve chased history by chasing one another in made-up backyard games, and this fall they’ll join the Browners—Ross, Jim, Joey and Keith, who played in the 1970s and ’80s—as the second modern foursome of NFL brothers. If Kansas State fullback Glenn Gronkowski, a projected late-round pick, lands with an NFL team, the Gronkowskis (with Dan, Chris and Rob) will join that small fraternity—though growing up Fuller was much different from growing up Gronk. Vincent II, now 33 and enrolled in his second year at Fordham Law, sets the understated tone. He led by example, rarely dating during his college and NFL days (to avoid distractions) and ditching his leased Range Rover to buy a Chevy Silverado (lowering payments from $800 to $300). On his advice, two of the younger Fullers majored in finance because of its real-world applications. “I want each of [my brothers] to be better than the next,” he says. “If one of them doesn’t achieve higher, then I would feel like I didn’t do something right in passing along my knowledge.”

The Fuller brothers, clockwise from top: Vincent II, Corey, Kendall and Kyle. Photo: Michael Lebrecht II/Sports Illustrated

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