Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #223

July 17 – July 23, 2016

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

  1. The forgotten fastest man; Harrison Dillard, winner of four Olympic golds, was one of the best runners of his generation
  2. After a bad break, Paul George ready for Olympic redemption
  3. Carmelo Anthony Is Using His Voice and Olympic Platform for Social Change
  4. The NBA Players Union Will Hold Its First-Ever Tech Summit, Led By Golden State Warrior Andre Iguodala
  5. The True Athlete Project: Using mindfulness to improve the experience of sport
  6. Nike commercial spotlights India’s female athletes in incredible new ad
  7. Can sport build bridges in post-Brexit Britain?
  8. A Runner’s Career Ends, but Her Mission Goes the Distance
  9. Usain Bolt’s return upstaged by hurdler breaking 28-year world record
  10. What the iconic 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck card means to a generation of fans

Why I’m Going to Rio (by Gevvie Stone) (The Players’ Tribune)
Remembering, Honoring, and Taking Action for a better future (Peace and Sport)
Wheelchair basketball for the win (Sport and Dev)
From the Euros to the Olympics: six ways to tackle sport’s waste problem (Beyond Sport)
Team USA in Motion (The Players’ Tribune)

Athletes are celebrated for their achievements. We marvel at the feats of endurance, strength, of extreme dexterity in their chosen sport. And while the athlete is performing at his or her peak, that celebratory feeling is sustained. But athletes, even the great ones, often don’t talk about the “celebration” when it comes to identifying the things that motivate them. Most athletes, even the elite ones, find their source of energy, determination, and effort in the challenge of the task at hand. And we as fans applaud when that challenge is met. Fame is but a by-product.

The first story we feature is of someone we never heard of, which makes the title of the article from The Undefeated so apropos, “The Forgotten Fastest Man.” Harrison Dillard is an Olympic champion, a sprinter and a hurdler. Following in the footsteps of his idol Jesse Owens, Dillard competed before and after serving in World War II, a veteran fighting for a country that in practice was not treating him equally like he deserved. From the article we got the sense that while that should have been a bother to Dillard, he performed his duties and did it at a high level because that was what he was supposed to do. No special treatment, just the task at hand, and meeting the challenge before him. Getting to learn about him this week was a distinct pleasure.

The other stories we are happy to feature this week include: the comeback of NBA All-Star and U.S. Olympian Paul George; the stand that fellow NBA All-Star and U.S. Olympian Carmelo Anthony has taken when it comes to the fight for equality and fair treatment in American society; an opportunity for NBA players to learn more about the technology industry that so much influences our lives and maybe become a leader in that area as well; an introduction to a wonderful new movement, The True Athlete Project, in which mindfulness and our internal well-being is sought to be part of each athlete’s makeup; a look at a compelling new video from Nike celebrating and encouraging the participation of a long-neglected group in India, the female athlete; a look at how sport may be a tool to assist with discrimination and fear in British society; the life-changing decision made by elite runner Laura Fleshman to continue her time not only as a runner but also as a mentor to others trying to follow her path; the world-record performance by a track athlete, Kendra Harrison,  who missed on her chance to go to Rio but did not give up on herself or her career; and a piece describing how one young baseball player, Ken Griffey, Jr. embarked on a Hall of Fame career that those of this generation were made to feel they were an important part of for more than 20 years.
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So enjoy. And have a good week.

The forgotten fastest man; Harrison Dillard, winner of four Olympic golds, was one of the best runners of his generation
“That’s what I always tried to do, win the next race and be better than I was in the previous races. And once again, you have been asking me if I was a hero, and to tell you the truth, that really has never entered my mind. Because that has never been who I am.” He went to the London Olympics as a special guest in 2012, but won’t be going to Rio because age and travel do not go well together anymore. He will be watching, though, particularly sprinter Usain Bolt from Jamaica. His wife’s Jamaican heritage helped put him in touch with Bolt through the years, and they talk occasionally. Is Bolt the best sprinter ever, better than Owens or any of the others? He looks at me and laughs as if I have asked the stupidest question of all time. “The question isn’t even relevant,” he said. “Jesse and I both ran 10.3s at the Olympics. I think Bolt ran a 9.6 in London. Yes, Bolt is the best ever. Until someone else beats that time.” Dillard smiles again. There’s nothing complicated here. He worked hard and succeeded. Did what he was supposed to do, and no need to send special honors his way. The honors should go to the high school valedictorian who lives with him. That makes more sense. That’s what grandfathers know.

Four-time Olympic gold medalist and Baldwin Wallace University alum Harrison Dillard looks at a statue erected in his honor on the campus of BW in Berea, OH on Thursday, May 26, 2015. Dustin Franz for The Undefeated

After a bad break, Paul George ready for Olympic redemption
“It means a lot,” George said after Team USA’s opening practice of training camp in preparation for the Rio Olympics next month. “This is like really a redemption to myself. All the bad that happened on that night, I owed myself this opportunity to come back out here and compete for my country.” For all that has been made about stars such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard bowing out of international competition this summer, George’s inclusion can’t be emphasized enough. “It’s one of the great stories of this group,” said Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball’s managing director. “I mean, when you think about it, when you think back to the tragedy when the injury took place, no one could have projected where he would be. And was his career over? Was his career going to be limited because of the injury? Would he ever come back fully? And to see him back and to see what he’s accomplished back in the league, it’s like he didn’t miss a beat.”

It once seemed like going to the Rio Olympics was a longshot for Paul George, but he is back on the court for Team USA. Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Carmelo Anthony Is Using His Voice and Olympic Platform for Social Change
Carmelo Anthony said he was having trouble sleeping. In the aftermath of the fatal police shootings of two black men, followed by the retaliatory killings of five police officers in Dallas by a sniper, Anthony awoke in the middle of the night this month and logged on to his Instagram account. “Just started typing,” Anthony said Monday as the men’s national basketball team commenced its training camp in Las Vegas ahead of the Olympics next month in Brazil. “That’s how everything came about.” Anthony, 32, who is chasing his third gold medal, appears determined to use his platform as a sports star to advance his growing interest in social activism, particularly when it comes to gun violence. He plans to help organize a town-hall meeting with community leaders in Los Angeles soon, he said. “Because at the end of the day, what I put out there on Instagram and what we did for the ESPYs kind of sparked something,” Anthony said, referring to a message he helped deliver at the ESPN sports awards show last week. “So now we got to follow through with that and make sure everybody is following through.”

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, left, and Warriors forward Draymond Green at a training session in Las Vegas with the United States Olympic men’s basketball team. Credit Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The NBA Players Union Will Hold Its First-Ever Tech Summit, Led By Golden State Warrior Andre Iguodala
Through the three-day event, which will span from July 19 to 21, current and former NBA players will be able to watch presentations from major tech and media companies and be allowed to visit several sites of these companies in the Silicon Valley. Among the firms that are expected to be present in the event are wearable tech company Jawbone and venture capital firms SV Angel and Andreessen Horowitz. The summit will also give NBA players networking opportunities with executives of the involved companies, along with workshops that will help them determine opportunities they can pursue while in the middle of their career or after it. According to NBPA Deputy Executive Director Roger Mason Jr., a key part of the mission of the union is to assist NBA players in maximizing their opportunities both on and off the court, while preparing for life after their playing careers have ended. He added that emerging technology, including wearable devices and new media content platforms, have a direct impact on the lives of NBA players, and so it is the right time to provide the players with an event to become more aware of the tech industry. event will be spearheaded by Andre Iguodala, the sixth man of the Golden State Warriors and the 2015 NBA Finals MVP.  (Ezra Shaw | Getty Images)

The True Athlete Project: Using mindfulness to improve the experience of sport
Formed in January 2015, the True Athlete Project aims to address this. It uses meditation, sport psychology, creative expression, tai-chi, mentoring and more to improve athletes’ experience, optimise their performance and transform the culture of sport coaching. At the centre of this is the concept of mindfulness. Interest in mindfulness has grown recently, but it remains somewhat misunderstood. “Mindful meditation involves sitting and practicing the skill of returning your focus to breathing or to the sensations of the body,” explains Sam. “Gradually it can become more dynamic, from a body scan to a mindful walk, even a mindful run…You’re training yourself to have a relaxed focus in the face of increasing difficulty. It means that when an issue arises in a race, or with a teammate, or in life more generally, this focused attitude and ability becomes part of your instinctive response.” Through mindfulness, participants learn to notice when their focus has drifted away, and return to their breathing and body.

A St. Peter’s second grader meditates during one of Sam’s PE classes.

Nike commercial spotlights India’s female athletes in incredible new ad
Nike has a history of making slick, motivational ads, and Da Da Ding is no exception. The three-minute video shows a variety of women running, playing badminton and basketball, boxing and more. But this ad is different as it features Indian women. According to the Indian Commission on Women, Indian women and girls face significant barriers to playing sports. Girls aren’t encouraged by their families to play sports growing up, and as adults, the opportunities are even sparser, particularly for middle class and poor women. India has 37 Summer Olympics medals, but just three were won by women. No Indian woman has ever won a gold medal. Saina Newhal, who won bronze in badminton in London, has a shot to add to the Indian women’s total. Even after dealing with the injuries earlier this year, she is headed into the Olympics ranked fifth in the world. An ad won’t fix all of the problems Indian women face in trying to play sports, but showing the world how Indian women can be strong and athletic is a good start.

Can sport build bridges in post-Brexit Britain?
Amjid said: “I was laughing at a tweet the other day – it said ‘look at these immigrants taking our jobs’ with a picture of Klopp, Mourinho, Conte, Guardiola, Wenger, Pochettino and Ranieri. I remember John Barnes at Liverpool, and thinking how can people be racist and then support football teams with people from all over the world representing their club? “I think sport can play a massive role in trying to tackle that prejudice, especially on a local level and within those groups who perhaps socio-economically might be struggling. I can understand that maybe sometimes football clubs want to take a step back and don’t want to be seen to be too politicised, or favouring one group in the community over another. But I think they could do more and get out there to engage with those groups, and show that they are the hub of the community – regardless of what background you are from. And because of the rise in racism post-Brexit, it’s even more important that they do that.” He explained: “In our work with the likes of Middlesbrough Football Club and with staff from schools and businesses; participants have themselves felt there had been a change in atmosphere. Even amongst our friends and families, it feels like this vote has given some people the confidence to say things which normally they would not have said. It’s all been fed by the negative rhetoric which some parts of the media have contributed to, so it’s crucially important that we challenge this, turn it around and say ‘no, we won’t have this’. I feel football clubs and their sponsors can do much more to help.”

Reported incidents of racism in the UK increased 42% in the weeks before and after the EU referendum. So what can sport do to reduce tension and restore community cohesion across a traumatised nation?

A Runner’s Career Ends, but Her Mission Goes the Distance
Fleshman took the unusual step of pursuing interests related to the sport but not integral to performance and talking about things she worried about, like athlete pay, doping and eating disorders. She worked to balance those concerns with success on the track, but not everyone was impressed. Jesse Thomas, the triathlete and Stanford teammate Fleshman married in 2007, noticed the effects on her career. “This sport tends to reward a single-minded focus, and some of that advocacy to a certain extent probably detracted from her athletic accomplishments,” Thomas said. “In a sport where your performance directly dictates your income opportunities, basically the majority of your income comes from prizes or bonus money, and it can be hard to justify any time away from building your athleticism. But she became so much more influential than when she was exclusively winning races.” In 2012, just before she gave birth to her son, Fleshman ended her Nike sponsorship and moved to the women’s running start-up Oiselle, where she brought many of the same feminist approaches that she had promoted at Nike.

Injuries kept Lauren Fleshman, once a top American collegiate distance runner, from competing in the Olympics. At 34, she is retiring, but her work for equality in the sport continues. Credit Oiselle

Usain Bolt’s return upstaged by hurdler breaking 28-year world record
Usain Bolt looked in fine shape for the Olympics by winning his last race before Rio de Janeiro on his return from injury. Keni Harrison also looked more than ready for Brazil by breaking a 28-year record in the 100-meters hurdles in London on Friday. Only unlike Bolt, Harrison is not going to the Olympics. While Bolt is Rio-bound despite being forced to pull out of the Jamaican trials with a hamstring injury, Harrison failed to make the American track squad after a poor performance at her trials. Instead, Harrison will have to settle for her record-breaking night at the London Diamond League meet being her crowning moment of the summer. The 23-year-old Harrison ran 12.20 seconds on the site of the 2012 Olympics to surpass Yordanka Donkova’s previous mark of 12.21 set in August 1988; before the American was born. “Not making the Olympic team I was really upset,” Harrison said. “And I wanted to come out here and do what I know what I could have done (in Rio).” Even sweeter for Harrison was finishing ahead of compatriots Brianna Rollins and Kristi Castlin, who both qualified for the Olympics ahead of her. “You have one bad day but I knew I still had it in me,” Harrison said, referring to her sixth-place finish at the U.S. trials earlier this month. “I was coming out here with just vengeance to show these girls what I have.”

Kendra Harrison has a world record time on her side. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What the iconic 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck card means to a generation of fans
The genius of Upper Deck’s choice of Griffey as card No. 1 belonged to a kid named Tom Geideman, like Griffey just 18 years old. As a college student working at the fledgling card company, Geideman convinced Upper Deck’s brass to differentiate itself from Topps and Donruss and Fleer by leading off its set with a minor leaguer. This predated by a good 15 years the prospect culture that the Internet birthed and today has grown into an industry within an industry, fetishizing minor leaguers because of what they might be. Gregg Jefferies, one of the choices for Upper Deck’s first card, scratched out a solid if underwhelming major league career. Sandy Alomar Jr., another possibility, made six All-Star games and should be a major league manager sometime soon. Gary Sheffield, the other option, developed into a borderline Hall of Famer with a positive steroid test on his resume. None was Griffey. No one is Griffey. And no one, to a child whose love of baseball blossomed in the late 1980s and was fortified in the early ’90s, ever will be Griffey. I know this seems anachronistic and all, but you have to understand: Baseball was cool back then, and no one was cooler than Ken Griffey Jr. He was the last baseball player whose popularity exceeded football and basketball stars. And, yeah, the backward hat helped craft this eternally youthful image of him, and his Nike shoes were dope, and the luminescence of his swing – so perfect; so, so perfect – matched his aesthetic. The real reason everyone loved Griffey, though, was because he was that damn good.

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