Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #215

May 22 – May 28, 2016

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

  1. The Israeli-Palestinian basketball teams that are breaking all barriers
  2. The Sumo Matchup Centuries In The Making
  3. Myles Jones: The Face of the Game
  4. “Together we can change the world”: IOC launches global promotional campaign
  5. ESPN and Special Olympics Reach New Programming and Unified Sports® Sponsorship Agreements
  6. The Olympic Movement Belongs to Everyone
  7. How An Anonymous Photographer May Have Inadvertently Saved Archer Jeff Fabry’s Life
  8. Keenan Reynolds Cleared to Play in NFL by US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter
  9. Boston Cannons to Help in the Battle Against Cancer with a Special “Cannons Fighting Cancer” Game Night on June 23
  10. Guardian Angel: How Division III lacrosse player Reed Salmons saved the life of a stranger 3,000 miles away

Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo Join All-Star Team at Beyond Soccer in San Francisco
Giving back is the goal for newest Laureus Ambassador Jamie Redknapp
The Reason We Wear Number 40 (The Players’ Tribune)
Stanford Student-Athletes Kick Off “SCORE” Initiative to Offset Team Air Travel Emissions
National Lottery funded athletes give back over 17,000 days to inspiring a generation on Road to Rio
American women embrace mixed martial arts, crush stereotypes

So often we see sports events taking place that seemingly take on importance normally reserved for life and death situations. We even have a term for a particular part of a game that take places after the regularly scheduled time (aka sudden death). But we know, or at least should, that there are many things in our world that truly threaten or can literally save the lives of individuals. Thankfully we know that there are also good people and things that will help to preserve and even better our lives (we remember many of those people during Memorial Day). Sports can certainly play a part as well.

Sport’s impact can be direct and indirect. We see that reflected in several stories this week. Our first story takes a look at the wonderful sports non-profit, PeacePlayers International, an organization dedicated to bridging divided communities through basketball. Made up of young people whose main exposure to a particular ethnic group was regularly viewed in the context of hate and death, sport is a vehicle to help the young players understand the true nature of each peer, not some false assumption that aims to permanently keep the individuals at odds, or even worse, fighting to end the lives of members of the other group.

We also have several stories that speak to the overriding ideals of excellence, friendship, sportsmanship and determination. Those stories involved Olympic-related subject matter. From the IOC’s “Together we can change the world” promotional campaign to an essay on the need to include those with disabilities further when it comes to participation and respect in sports, the games we play and the events we love are opportunities to enhance life, whether or not they literally can give or save life. But we do have a story in which sport was connected in such a situation!

Student-athlete Reed Salmons and his teammates from Dickinson College were encouraged to part of an on-campus bone marrow drive. Many did, rubbing cotton swabs against their cheeks and submitting the DNA samples to the national Be The Match Registry, part of a worldwide database of more than 22.5 million potential adult stem cell donors. Turns out this lacrosse player and aspiring doctor was a perfect match for a man across the country in desperate need of a transplant. This amazing gesture by Salmons helped to preserve life for Mark Tose. This situation is one that thankfully is playing out more and more as individuals learn of their opportunity to potentially serve as a donor. Kudos to Reed, his coach and Dickinson College to being a part of the national registry. In this case, sports was certainly involved in saving a life.

The other stories we are happy to feature this week include a look at: the amazing culture surrounding the sport of sumo; one of the country’s best young lacrosse players, Myles Jones; an extension of the robust partnership between ESPN and the Special Olympics; how good fortune and a photo combined to save a Paralympic champion’s life; star football player and Naval Academy graduate Keenan Reynolds; and Major League Lacrosse’s Boston Cannons’ inaugural cancer-fighting initiative.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

The Israeli-Palestinian basketball teams that are breaking all barriers
Ross, 26, is a coach for PeacePlayers International (PPI), an organization dedicated to bridging divided communities through basketball. PPI’s four teams are the only in the Israel Basketball Association youth league with Jews and Palestinians playing together, and Ross coaches two of them, the U-16 and U-18 All-Stars. This approach has led to pushback from fans and referees alike. It has also led to unprecedented success. The season ended with victories for both of Ross’ teams at the championship game in April, but more than a month before that, the PeacePlayers teams had already clinched those divisions for the first time in program history. Players are drawn to the program’s winning reputation, and for many the team’s diversity is an unwelcome surprise at first. Pull aside one girl and ask her what she knew of the other players before their first practice, and the answers are eerily uniform. “I thought the Jews would hurt me, or they’d grow up to hurt me,” says a 16-year-old Palestinian team member who’d prefer not to have her name used. “I had heard that all the Arabs were terrorists, and everyone wants to kill us, and I thought we were supposed to hate each other,” says a 15-year-old Israeli player. They expected that getting along would require hours of conversation. But there is nothing like the rapport of teammates, and focusing on basketball was enough. They linger after practices, text often during the week and spend weekend retreats laughing and talking into the night about music and friends and school. “A basketball team is based on trust and friendship,” says Toot, an 18-year-old Israeli who is nearly the tallest and oldest on the U-18 team.

The teams have encountered racism from crowds, but also incredible success on the court: Both squads won their divisions, clinching victory more than a month before the championship games. PeacePlayers International

The Sumo Matchup Centuries In The Making
If a hypothetical tale of the tape across a couple of centuries is a little too abstract for you, consider that the dramatic shift in the balance of power in sumo’s demographics that has been taking place of late also has implications for our matchup. Before 1972, no non-Japanese wrestler had ever won a basho. The first was Takamiyama, a Hawaiian sekiwake (the third rank, behind yokozuna and ozeki) who otherwise had a relatively undistinguished career as a sumotori. But he then founded the Azumazeki stable — one of the regimented groups of wrestlers who live and train together and to which all active rikishi belong. There he recruited and trained Chad Rowan — a former high school basketball all-star from Hawaii — who took the shikona Akebono, became the first non-Japanese yokozuna and won 11 Emperor’s Cups. Today, international wrestlers have taken over the sport.

Hakuho has won 36 grand tournaments, more than any other professional sumo wrestler in history. TIM FOLEY

Myles Jones: The Face of the Game
There weren’t a lot of minority lacrosse players when I was playing in middle school and high school, and it seemed like there were even less at the D-I level. In my first three years at Duke, the number of African-American men’s lacrosse players in D-I grew by more than 50%. It’s changing, but it’s still something you don’t see too often. Which explains my double-take at our Georgetown game. In high school when I visited Duke, I’d stay with their goalie at the time, Devin Sherwood. He’s a Long Island guy and his dad and my dad are pretty close. We’d hang out and I’d ask him a lot of questions, including, “What’s it like being the only black kid on the team?” When kids came to visit and they and their parents asked me that, I thought how weird it was that things had come full circle. So what did I tell them? That it was actually kind of cool. I’m different and most students respected me because of that. Listen, I grew up with kids whose parents struggled, whose parents worked dead-end jobs, and I think some kids who go to Duke can’t really understand that. Their parents are retired at 50 and 45 — I know kids from my neighborhood whose grandparents are still working. But there was a genuine interest at Duke in where I came from and my perspective.

Photograph by Rob Carr/Getty Images

“Together we can change the world”: IOC launches global promotional campaign
With the aim of inspiring the spirit of unity, hope and peace for a better tomorrow, the campaign is entitled “Together we can change the world.” The launch of the campaign coincides with the Olympic Flame lighting ceremony for the Olympic Games Rio 2016, at which the IOC President said “Like no other human activity, sport is about bringing people together in the spirit of friendship and respect. Sport always builds bridges, it never erects walls. In a world shaken by crises, the message that our shared humanity is greater than the forces that divide us, is more relevant than ever before. By coming together in unity to celebrate the rich diversity of our shared humanity, the Olympic Games give us all hope that a better world is possible. Together, we can change the world.” The first phase of the campaign consists of four films: Together, Breath, Respect and Counting Stars. Each tells the story of the core Olympic values and their role in enhancing a united world through sport.

ESPN and Special Olympics Reach New Programming and Unified Sports® Sponsorship Agreements
“ESPN is not just a broadcaster or sponsor, but our partner in building positive attitudes about athletes with intellectual disabilities,” said Mary Davis, Chief Executive Officer, Special Olympics.  “As our movement continues to break down negative stigma, we are thrilled that ESPN will be opening hearts and minds through sports television sharing the gifts and talents of our Special Olympics athletes with the world and helping us invite everyone to join our movement for inclusion.” Added John Skipper, ESPN President and co-Chair of Disney Media Networks, “Over the past three years, ESPN has deepened a long-standing relationship with the Special Olympics movement. Through our support of Unified Sports and our coverage of remarkable Special Olympics events and athletes, we’ve been reminded of the profound impact sport can have and inspired by the incredible moments and stories we’ve brought to millions of fans. Inclusion and acceptance are values we believe in, and we are both proud and excited to continue working with Special Olympics in the coming years.”

ESPN will be Official Media Partner through 2019 including Special Olympic World Games and Special Olympics USA Games, plus deliver additional year-round coverage and content

The Olympic Movement Belongs to Everyone
In the Olympic Charter, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) states, “The Olympic Movement encompasses organisations, athletes and other persons who agree to be guided by the Olympic Charter. The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” The practice of sport without discrimination suggests the Olympic Movement welcomes a diverse mix of athletes, including women, refugees, people of different faiths, ethnicities, races, sexual orientations, and abilities, including athletes with disabilities. We see athletes with disabilities take part in the Olympic Games, Paralympic Games, Special Olympics and the Deaflympics. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Special Olympics International (SOI) and the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD) are officially recognized organizations of the IOC. Principle 6 of the Principles of Olympism in the Olympic Charter states that the “Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” The reference to “or other status” can be interpreted as including athletes with disabilities competing in the Olympic Games as well as the athletes of the Paralympic Games, Special Olympics and Deaflympics. Given this interpretation, now is the time for the IOC to be more specific and direct in welcoming and including athletes with disabilities into Principle 6.

How An Anonymous Photographer May Have Inadvertently Saved Archer Jeff Fabry’s Life
Fabry knew melanoma well, having lost his grandmother to that particular form of cancer a few years earlier. But a spot? What spot? He went through the airport looking for a copy of Sports Illustrated, and when he found one, he saw the picture thought, “Oh, that’s just my mole. I’ve had that for years.” Fortunately, Fabry went with the unknown dermatologists’ advice and got it checked out because his mole did, in fact, turn out to be melanoma. According to the American Cancer Society, the rates of melanoma have been rising for the last 30 years. They estimate that in 2016 there were will be about 76,380 new cases of melanoma diagnosed, and about 10,130 people will die because of it. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The AAD says skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and it estimates one person dies from melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — every hour. Fabry believes that were it not for that photographer, he’d be among the grimmest statistics. “I’d put money on it today that if that picture wasn’t in Sports Illustrated, I’d be pushing up daisies right now, that’s how certain I am of it,” he said. “Basically, a photographer I don’t know, and a picture in a magazine I never thought I’d be in, saved my life.”

Jeff Fabry celebrates after winning the gold medal in men’s individual compound archery W1 at the London 2012 Paralympic Games at The Royal Artillery Barracks on Sept. 3, 2012 in London.

Keenan Reynolds Cleared to Play in NFL by US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter
Per the Associated Press (via the Baltimore Sun), Carter delivered the message about Reynolds’ NFL career as part of his graduation speech to the Naval Academy class of 2016. Reynolds has had supporters speaking out in recent weeks, with Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus saying on the Dan Patrick Show (via Mink) that he was “confident” there was a way for Reynolds to play in the NFL and fulfill his military commitment. Mabus added that he “can’t think of a better ambassador for the United States Navy or for the United States military than” Reynolds. Military obligations have had an impact on professional sports in the past. David Robinson served two years in the Navy after being drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 1987 before he played in an NBA game in 1989. Reynolds is fighting an uphill battle to make the Ravens roster as a sixth-round draft pick, but he does possess great versatility that makes him an intriguing talent. He’s listed as a wide receiver and return specialist on the team’s official roster page, so if he shows good ability at either position in training camp, his status could evolve into something more prominent before the regular season starts in September.

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Boston Cannons to Help in the Battle Against Cancer with a Special “Cannons Fighting Cancer” Game Night on June 23
The Boston Cannons will host their inaugural “Cannons Fighting Cancer” initiative at the team’s home game on June 23 at Harvard Stadium against the Chesapeake Bayhawks. Cannons Fighting Cancer will unite the lacrosse, medical and research communities to raise funds and awareness for philanthropic and research organizations that are focused on finding a cure for cancer and providing services, support and care for individuals and families who are impacted by the disease. The Cannons have partnered with The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) and its Play4theCure ™ platform as the primary beneficiary for this special game night. Cannons Fighting Cancer will bring together and honor members of the Greater Boston medical, science, philanthropic, survivor and lacrosse communities for their continuous efforts in the fight against cancer. Cannons fans can nominate inspirational individuals making an impact against cancer to be recognized at the game by sharing their story on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #CannonsFightingCancer. Nominations can also be emailed to

Guardian Angel: How Division III lacrosse player Reed Salmons saved the life of a stranger 3,000 miles away
A representative from Be The Match remained in touch to document Salmons’ recovery process. He pleaded for information about the stranger, to no avail. Suddenly, he was the one waiting, hoping for someone to call him. “But no regrets,” he says. Salmons graduated and accepted an internship at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the same medical complex where former Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still’s young daughter had her chemotherapy and stem cell transplant. Soon after, Salmons received his first update on the stranger’s condition. “It’s basically summed up doctor jargon,” he says. But the news was positive. Another dispatch arrived in August 2014. “The only negative thing in the whole process was that it messed up my lacrosse game for the season,” Salmons said, “but it was totally, 100% worth doing that, because I get updates that he’s still alive, he’s doing well.” Salmons had done his part, physically and mentally, an admirable and selfless act for a man he had never met, and federal privacy law ensured the status quo for at least several more months. But Salmons ached to learn more. He wrote an anonymous letter to the stranger, mailing it through his rep at Be The Match.

Courtesy of Bloodworks Northwest

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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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