Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #257

April 2 – April 8, 2017

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

  1. Raptors’ Masai Ujiri looks for victories in Africa
  2. How Latino Players Are Helping Major League Baseball Learn Spanish
  3. What The Players’ Tribune Can Teach About Storytelling
  4. This college student got to cover the Final Four for @Instagram
  5. 49ers Foundation Teams with Beyond Sport and Chevron to Showcase Sports and Youth Education
  6. Reebok Announces Sustainability Products Initiative With Plant-Based Footwear
  7. Growing up with Street Soccer USA: Featured Player of the Month Shauntel Payton
  8. ‘You Can’t Give In’: Monty Williams On Life After Tragedy
  9. Special Olympics makes technological leaps and bounds with help from Microsoft
  10. U.S. Soccer’s Growth Is Giving Brands a Kick

World Rugby announces Spirit of Rugby programme (Sport and Dev)
Elite 101: Nashville Predators Edition (by Roman Josi) (The Players’ Tribune)
Refugee Olympic Team a symbol of the unifying power of sport (Beyond Sport)
First Tehran marathon bids to ‘build bridges’ with US runners (Peace and Sport)
A message from the CYSDP Network to policy makers in commemoration of IDSDP 2017 (Sport and Dev)

11. Crowdfunding effort of the week – Karl Alzner, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby and Elliot Segal for So Kids Can,, (FanAngel)

One of the main themes that appears in the Sports Doing Good newsletter is resilience. We have read many stories of athletes and others being able to find the strength to overcome challenges of all types. We admire their ability to deal with sometimes overwhelming odds and admire those who reach out to help these individuals. That outside support is absolutely essential for recovery to have a chance.

A story that we feature this week deals with individual and group resiliency, and the power of love and friendship to help those trying to recover from tragedy. Chris Ballard’s story in Sports Illustrated about former college basketball star and NBA player, assistant coach and head coach Monty Williams will very likely bring you to tears. It will also inspire you and want to root for Monty and his kids. Monty’s loss, and that of his kids, has galvanized them and their support network around the country. We hope that you take the time to read this story.

We also feature the following stories this week: Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri and the basketball camp he runs each summer for teens in his home country of Nigeria and the resulting documentary; how Latino players are helping to bring diversity to the “culture of baseball;” the growth and impact of The Players’ Tribune on storytelling in this age of super fast information consumption; how college student Natalie Hesse was able to have an experience of a lifetime covering the Final Four for Instagram; the San Francisco 49ers Foundation’s partnership with Beyond Sport and Chevron to showcase sports and youth education; Reebok’s sustainability products efforts; a young lady, Shauntel Payton, finding herself and achieving success through her relationship with Street Soccer USA; advances being made by the Special Olympics to further showcase their wonderful athletes; and the continued success of U.S. soccer at the professional level.

Finally, we want to make you aware of All Sports United’s “2017 Most Valuable Philanthropist in Sports Award.” All Sports United created the “Humanitarian Award” to recognize the effort of a deserving sports philanthropist each year. Now in its 5th year, All Sports United is excited to partner again with its technology provider Givkwik and multiple other partners to expand the program. All Sports continues to bring positive news to the sports world, and highlight the amazing works of so many.

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.

Raptors’ Masai Ujiri looks for victories in Africa
Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri knows a thing or two about putting a winning team on the court. Since joining the organization in May, 2013, the team has made an appearance in the NBA postseason four times, including this year. But every August, Ujiri spends his only downtime in the offseason guiding another winning team on the hardwood — the players at the Giants of Africa basketball camp he runs every summer for teens in his home country of Nigeria. Ujiri has been returning to Africa for the past 13 years as a way to give back to the country and inspire its youth to be role models in their communities. It’s arguably a role he views as more important than his job with the Raptors. “The truth is; I see myself in these kids,” Ujiri tells the Toronto Sun. Before heading to the continent in 2015, Ujiri decided he wanted to capture one of his visits for a documentary film…The finished product — Giants of Africa — opens in theatres on Friday. It follows Ujiri as he visits four countries — Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Nigeria — in 2015. Oscar-nominated, African-Canadian documentary filmmaker Hubert Davis directs.–masai-ujiri-looks-for-victories-in-africa
(Video, Caption: GIANTS OF AFRICA Trailer | Festival 2016

How Latino Players Are Helping Major League Baseball Learn Spanish
Rolón says when ESPN Deportes launched in 2004, they found a “huge void” at the intersection of Spanish and baseball that was not being filled. This gap in Spanish coverage led ESPN to realize there was an opportunity to get that coverage from the reporters to bleed into the English programming. “By getting more candid conversations with the players, by letting them open up a little bit more because we’re talking to them in their native languages, we got better stories and we were better at serving fans because we could tell them things they might not have heard if they were just looking at it from an English-language lens,” Rolón said. ESPN’s Pedro Gomez, a bilingual journalist who has covered baseball for more than 20 years, says covering the players in two languages has improved the reporting and how the players express themselves. “I remember when I started back in the late ’80s, early ’90s, I can’t think of another bilingual reporter that existed on the baseball beat,” Gomez said. “And now you walk into a club house and there are more and more bilingual reporters covering Major League Baseball.” While there are more bilingual reporters, Gomez says he would not go as far as agreeing that Spanish-speaking players are not comfortable enough to approach the press more readily today than in the past.

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, left, talks with first base coach Harold Baines in the dugout during a game in 2011. Nam Y. Huh/AP

What The Players’ Tribune Can Teach About Storytelling
But aside from the sports enticement, Ms. Robertson said she took the head of content role at The Players’ Tribune because she thought the first-person storytelling concept was powerful. “What’s so exciting is that sports is the prism we use to tell stories and they’re human interest rather than sports-focused,” she said. “There’s not a lot of nuance allowed in post-game interviews and we want to provide that real estate.” One example is the video and article from former Milwaukee Bucks forward Larry Sanders in 2015 about why he left the NBA, which Ms. Robertson said really resonated with readers and started a conversation about mental health struggles and anxiety. Mr. Sanders revealed on The Players’ Tribune that part of the reason he left professional basketball was because of his battle with anxiety and depression. “I think a lot of people were drawn to that and can relate to it,” said Ms. Robertson, adding that the site’s best element is “whenever we can humanize and connect with the stories we tell.”

The Players’ Tribune content spans written, audio, video, digital and social platforms. Credit: Players’ Tribune

This college student got to cover the Final Four for @Instagram
The Student Section program has allowed Hesse to have some fantastic professional experiences — from dining with Instagram executives to taking her first business trip. Hesse stressed that participating in Instagram’s Student Section has expanded her social media skill set. “Instagram is definitely my favorite platform,” said Hesse. “In the past, I didn’t really use Instagram Stories. I saw a lot of professional accounts doing it, and it always looked so glamorous,” laughed Hess. But on Saturday night, Hesse became the Instagram Stories expert, producing content for the account’s 219 million followers to see. Hesse emphasized that her academic background as an integrated strategic communications major helped to prepare her for the takeover. When she first matriculated at the University of Kentucky, Hesse was considering careers in a wide range of areas, including fashion. With time, however, she ended up gravitating towards the integrated strategic communications major. Hesse stressed that she values the real-world knowledge and applicability of her courses. “I really fell in love with my major,” said Hesse. “It sounds really cheesy, but I love going to my classes.” Hesse noted that she has particularly enjoyed her work in sports marketing. “I’m not [an college athlete],” she said. “I just really love sports!”

Natalie Hesse. (Instagram)

49ers Foundation Teams with Beyond Sport and Chevron to Showcase Sports and Youth Education
Taking this journey to the next stage, Beyond Sport is partnering with the 49ers Foundation and Chevron to host the Beyond Innovation summit. The collaboration between the 49ers Foundation and Chevron has resulted in the creation of the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute (SLI), providing opportunities for students to excel in STEM education through college-preparatory curriculum, state-of-the-art engineering labs and access to role models and mentors. Since inception in 2014, SLI has enrolled 180 talented learners to meet the challenges of the global society. In partnership with Chevron, the 49ers Museum presented by Sony STEAM education program has reached nearly 150,000 participants with its hands-on, project-based learning activities. “The 49ers Foundation is committed to helping all kids reach their full potential,” Vice President & Executive Director, 49ers Foundation at the San Francisco 49ers, Joanne Pasternack said. “The Foundation is the embodiment of the 49ers commitment to being a force for change in the community. We do more than just play football – we use football as a platform to serve as role models to make lasting change in the Bay Area. In today’s economy, this includes creating a pipeline for talented and academically-motivated youth to pursue STEM-related majors and careers.”

Reebok Announces Sustainability Products Initiative With Plant-Based Footwear
Fitness brand Reebok wants to create shoes “made from things that grow,” and that’ll start with its new “Cotton + Corn” sustainable products initiative it announced this week. Later this year, the first plant-based piece of footwear later will include an upper made up of organic cotton and a base from industrial grown corn. According to President Matt O’Toole, the initiative is part of “being a socially responsible company” as the Reebok Future team continues to redefine the process by which it makes footwear. “With Cotton + Corn we’re focused on all three phases of the product lifecycle,” Bill McInnis, Head of Reebok Future, said in a statement. “First, with product development we’re using materials that grow and can be replenished, rather than the petroleum-based materials commonly used today. Second, when the product hits the market we know our consumers don’t want to sacrifice on how sneakers look and perform. Finally, we care about what happens to the shoes when people are done with them. So, we’ve focused on plant-based materials such as corn and cotton at the beginning, and compostability in the end.”

Growing up with Street Soccer USA: Featured Player of the Month Shauntel Payton
Shauntel Payton, the newest Coach at SSUSA Sacramento, has a history with Street Soccer which sets her apart from everyone else in her position. Street Soccer USA was introduced to Shauntel when she was only 10 years old.  Shauntel, her mother, and four siblings were living at a Volunteers of America Transitional housing community for the recently homeless where the first SSUSA Sacramento Adult teams were founded. Shauntel’s mother joined Sacramento’s Lady Salamanders, the first SSUSA Sacramento women’s team, which was training for the 2011 SSUSA Nationals in Washington DC. Shauntel and her siblings have been strengthening SSUSA’s Sacramento program since the first day they showed up with their mother in 2010. Not only were the Payton kids extremely athletic and good at soccer, but they were the first people our women’s program had the chance to practice against as a team! Shauntel and her siblings showed up to almost every practice with their mother in that first year, and they have continued to show up to play and practice for the last 6 years. In 2014, Street Soccer USA was invited to participate in the Street Child World Cup in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and Shauntel was one of the youth that was chosen to represent the USA.

Shauntel coaching a group of youth participants

‘You Can’t Give In’: Monty Williams On Life After Tragedy
As he left the stage, Monty didn’t notice the reaction in the room, or if he did, he doesn’t remember it. But those who were there describe a stunned silence. “He was saying to us what we should have been saying to him,” says RC Buford, the San Antonio GM. David West turned contemplative. “We always talk about physical strength, but it’s nothing compared to mental and emotional strength,” West says. “You realize your own deficiencies, because I don’t have that type of courage or strength or fortitude to stand as courageously as he did in that moment.” Later, on the plane ride home, Popovich told West and Duncan that it would be “years before we understand the totality of that moment.” Says Popovich now, “I was in awe. I could not believe that a human being could muster the control and command of his feelings and at the same time be as loving and magnanimous.” The theme at the heart of the speech—-forgiveness—was simple, and not unique. Still, the effect was profound. Maybe it was Monty’s delivery; it felt sincere. Maybe it’s because, right or wrong, we don’t always expect such empathy from professional athletes. Maybe it was that, for a message steeped in faith, it never felt preachy. In the weeks that followed, video of the memorial spread, and the reaction was immediate. OKC staffers made pins embossed with w7—that’s what people always called the Williams family. Donations poured in to Faithworks, the nonprofit Ingrid believed in so much, from strangers, from a half dozen teams, from players Monty had never met.

Chris Covatta/SI

Special Olympics makes technological leaps and bounds with help from Microsoft
And in July 2018, Special Olympics will hold its USA Games in Seattle. The event, which is held every four years, will bring 3,500 athletes to the city to compete in 16 different sports. The opening ceremonies will be held at Husky Stadium at the University of Washington. Events will take place at venues around the city. Microsoft is a top sponsor of next year’s games, giving $2.5 million to support the event. “It’s an opportunity for us to present Seattle as a city of inclusion. We will have athletes and families coming to Seattle from every state in the country,” said Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer of Microsoft, as well as the honorary chair of the games. Smith said that Microsoft has increased its attention to helping disabled people through a range of initiatives since Satya Nadella became CEO in February 2014. “Accessibility is one area he encouraged us to focus on more,” Smith said. “He had a deep appreciation for the role technology can play in improving the lives of people with disabilities.” Over the past three years, the company has helped Special Olympics through donations of software, technical assistance and even cell phones for use at events. It launched a program to employ disabled workers. And Microsoft has engineered software updates that make its products more user-friendly to people with reduced vision and children with dyslexia, among other improvements.

Athletes competing in the ladies 100 meter finals in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games held in Los Angeles. Microsoft donated 1,200 phones to use at the event. (Special Olympics International Photo)

U.S. Soccer’s Growth Is Giving Brands a Kick
Soccer isn’t just shedding its second-tier sports status in Cincinnati, where the club drew an average 17,296 attendees per game in its inaugural season, it is breaking into the mainstream across the U.S., propelled by a new generation of young, multicultural sports fans who are giving brands a reason to take a fresh look at pouring ad and sponsorship money into the game. “This is the sport of the youth—it’s fast-paced, it’s energetic,” said Heidi Pellerano, exec VP for brands at Wasserman, a sports and entertainment marketing and talent representation agency. Major League Soccer—which has long operated in the shadow of the Big Four pro leagues in baseball, soccer, football and hockey—is making a strong case that there is room for a fifth major sport. The MLS broke an attendance record last year, luring 7.4 million people and an average of 21,692 attendees per game, which is up 40% from 10 years ago, according to MLS.

Minor league FC Cincinnati is drawing big crowds. Credit: Getty Images

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