Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #261

April 30 – May 6, 2017

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

  1. How Sports Illustrated Made The First Live-Action VR Film On Everest
  2. Atlanta’s Big Goal
  3. Steelers tweet support of ex-Raven Todd Heap after daughter’s death
  4. After a Long Fight, FIBA Finally Lifts its Ban on Religious Headwear
  5. How a former mover became one of MLB’s emerging stars
  6. The woman who smashed the Kentucky Derby’s glass ceiling
  7. New CFL ad campaign targets women and millennials
  8. How black Utah Jazz players have embraced Salt Lake City
  9. With Baby in Tow, Victoria Azarenka Returns to Tennis — and Her Roots
  10. Catching Up With Katie Ledecky – Freshman Year Almost Done, Worlds On The Horizon

Raising awareness through football on the Thai/Burma border (Sport and Dev)
Paul Pierce’s Final Season: Photo Gallery (The Players’ Tribune)
Interview: Jocelyn Benson, Chief Executive Officer, RISE (Philanthropy Playmakers)
Taekwondo Academy Opens in Kiziba Refugee Camp (Beyond Sport)
Effective Dialogue to Create Change: Breaking the Silence and Stepping out of the Comfort Zone (Peace and Sport)

11. Crowdfunding effort of the week – Autism Speaks — Light it up Blue,, FanAngel

We are starting with a note about the scheduling of the newsletter. Based on feedback from readers, and with the upcoming summer months, we are going to move to a bi-weekly schedule through August. We have heard numerous times that readers wish they had more time to go through the newsletter. Having an extra week between issues will hopefully help with that. Please note that we will also continue to be active on Twitter and Facebook and invite you to follow us there as well.

We had particular interest this week in a story we have been following for a couple of years. FIBA, the governing body for basketball globally, had a rule banning headwear from the court, including wraps, turbans, hijabs, and yarmulkes. With obvious religious implications, this rule denied players the opportunity to compete on the international stage while practicing the tenants of their religion. While the rule may not have seemed to impact the game much on a global scale, the implications were far-reaching. That is, basketball is not tolerant of differences amongst various populations, differences that frankly had no impact on the competitive-character of the game being played.

After much campaigning by groups, basketball and non-basketball-related, FIBA changed its rule. The decision was met with seemingly universal praise and that should have been expected. While basketball specifically, and sport overall, involve intense competition, they also involve respect for fellow players. FIBA no doubt has an interest in further globalizing the game. Its decision to be more accepting will keep it on the right path to achieving that goal.

The other stories we are proud to feature this week include: a step into the world of virtual reality and Mount Everest with Sports Illustrated; a strategically-placed soccer pitch in the city of Atlanta; the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise supporting a former player on its fiercest rival in a time of great tragedy; the emergence of Houston Astros pitcher Chris Devenski; a look at Diane Crump, the first female jockey in the Kentucky Derby; the Canadian Football League’s campaign to be more inclusive and business savvy; how black NBA players have embraced Salt Lake City (unlike Matt Barnes); the return of former no. 1 tennis player, and new mom, Victoria Azarenka; and an update on Olympic swimming champion, and college freshman, Katie Ledecky.

Finally, we want to promote an excellent documentary that we saw this week. Directed by Marion Poizeau, Into the Sea ( depicts how three young women – Irish pro surfer Easkey Britton, Iranian pro snowboarder Mona Seraji, and Iranian diver Shalha Yasini introduce a new sport to Iran: surfing. Through the eyes of these women, the viewer experiences the journey from a unique and unusual perspective full of heart and emotion. The film portrays their journey to the remote southeastern region of Iran, Baluchistan, where Mona and Shalha are going to learn to surf with Easkey. All three share a passion and belief in the power of sport, especially surfing, as a way to break down social and cultural barriers, and connect with others.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

How Sports Illustrated Made The First Live-Action VR Film On Everest
With Capturing Everest, which it is promoting as the first-ever live-action virtual reality film of an Everest summit attempt, viewers are invited along on the successful 2016 climb by Brent Bishop, Lisa Thompson, and Jeff Glasbrenner. Adding to the intrigue of the effort is the fact that Glasbrenner is an amputee, making his climb enough of a heroic venture that “SI” is putting him on the cover of its next issue. For her part, Thompson is a cancer survivor who seems to be looking for a new life after a divorce and leaving behind a lucrative career. The climb itself was hampered by poor weather and afforded the team just a single shot at the summit. Along the way, viewers are treated to an inside look at the travails of trying to reach the top on a NASA-designed prosthetic leg, being far from friends and family in frigid, dangerous conditions, and crossing Everest’s famed (and sometimes fatal) ice falls. For Sports Illustrated parent Time Inc., presenting Capturing Everest through the Life VR app fits right into the company’s DNA, given that Life magazine documented the original Everest ascent by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953, explained Mia Tramz, the managing editor of Life VR.

Atlanta’s Big Goal
After receiving grant money from the Atlanta United Foundation, Patel reached out to GreenFields USA, the turf supplier for the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They agreed to be a sponsor and provided and installed the turf at a discounted rate. The lights—critical for the paid adult leagues the field hosts at night to help fund the free youth programs—came from Brazil, leftover fixtures from the Olympics that were donated and installed with the help of grant money provided by the U.S. Soccer Federation and a partnership with Musco/Cree Lighting. Keith Parker, CEO of MARTA, also signed on as a sponsor, leaving the final stamp of approval to the Federal Transit Administration. When the FTA asked if they could show them an example of where this had been done before they couldn’t find one. “We quickly realized we’d be building the first one in the world,” Patel says. Though the Soccer in the Streets organization has been around since the late ’80s, providing soccer programs mainly to schools and community centers, the popularity of the sport in Atlanta has experienced an ebb and flow. But soccer’s popularity has grown, and the addition of professional teams in the United States has made the sport more appealing, along with the popularity of video games like FIFA. Parents have also grown more hesitant about allowing their children to play football for fear of head injuries, particularly in African-American communities in Atlanta, according to Hill.

The city unveils the world’s first soccer field in a transit station, with a plan to connect the city through sports

Steelers tweet support of ex-Raven Todd Heap after daughter’s death
The site encourages people to wear pink in Holly’s honor, share hugs and spread love through random acts of heartfelt kindness in the community, and spread joy through the #hugsfromhollyday hashtag alongside happy family photos. “Holly was known to give the best hugs, and her love for everyone and everything in life was contagious,” according to the site, which also provides a link to the Baltimore Community Foundation for donations in Holly’s name. “Let’s spread this joy as we scatter sunshine in Holly’s honor on her birthday.” The Steelers and Ravens play one of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries, but they’ve been known to support each other in difficult times off the field. The Ravens issued several statements honoring Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who died last month at age 84. “Dan Rooney was the conscience of the NFL while serving as one of the powerful influences recently and in the history of our league,” owner Steve Bisciotti said in a statement. “He was kind, classy, and a true gentleman. He was a giant in our industry.”

#HugsForHollyDay #Pink

After a Long Fight, FIBA Finally Lifts its Ban on Religious Headwear
In a game-changing move, FIBA, the world governing body for basketball, unanimously approved a new rule Thursday that will lift its ban on observant Sikhs and others wearing religious head coverings. For three years, the Sikh Coalition helped lead an advocacy campaign to fix a FIBA policy that forced observant Sikhs off the court in international competition. “There is zero conflict between my faith and my ability to play basketball,” said Darsh Preet Singh, the first turbaned Sikh basketball player in the NCAA. “I am grateful to the Sikh Coalition for collaborating with other advocacy groups and lawmakers to score a win for civil rights. FIBA’s new rule will allow athletes across the world to pursue their dreams without compromising their faith.” Since 2014, the Sikh Coalition and grassroots supporters worked to put pressure on FIBA to change its policy. From placing op-eds and news stories, to working with congressional offices on multiple advocacy letters, we helped build a groundswell of public support for equal opportunity. Thursday’s announcement will officially go into effect in October 2017. “FIBA is sending a very clear message to the rest of the world that diversity and tolerance matter in sport,” said Sikh Coalition Senior Religion Fellow Simran Jeet Singh. “If implemented appropriately, ending this discriminatory policy opens the door for millions of young people to practice their faith and pursue their dreams. Nobody should ever be forced to choose between their sport and their faith.”

Courtesy Asma Elbadawi

How a former mover became one of MLB’s emerging stars
From as far back as he could remember, Chris would tag along with his father and the men in the truck, carrying pillows or knick-knacks, taping and marking boxes, laughing along when the older guys would tell him to go get that refrigerator, get it on the truck. His father would pay him in cash or in a new pair of sneakers or in a burger at the drive-thru window. “There you go,” Mike would tell him. “You earned your food.” When the truck was loaded or unloaded, whatever it hadn’t been before, and when his homework was done, Chris played ball and survived the neighborhood, hawked avocados from the backyard tree on the block, got his sleep, and then started again. Always, it seemed, with Mike nearby. He’d have a lead on a job, and so a call to return and a run to make, and Chris would hoist himself into the cab and ride along. Times were good and they were bad, but people always had to move, and they always had belongings that weren’t of use to them anymore, and Mike always had a plan. “I’m not a millionaire,” Mike says. “But I’m a millionaire in here. In my heart.” Chris gives him a long hug, saying, “I gotta go get ready.”

Chris Devenski is emerging as one of the better relief pitchers in baseball. (AP)

The woman who smashed the Kentucky Derby’s glass ceiling
When Diane Crump became the first woman to ride at Hialeah, she faced catcalls — go home, you need to go to the kitchen, you don’t need to be out here getting other jockeys killed. But instead of taking those words to heart, she went on to a trailblazing career, including becoming the first female jockey to race in the Kentucky Derby. Crump was a teenager in February 1969 when, at Hialeah Park racetrack, she became the first female jockey in the United States to compete in a pari-mutuel race. (Pari-mutuel refers to a system of betting.) A self-taught rider who got her start working on a horse farm near her home in Oldsmar, Florida, outside Tampa, Crump generated a large enough crowd in her debut that Hialeah provided armed guards to escort her to the track. Crump would break similar ground the following year at the Kentucky Derby. The 1970 Derby has long been remembered not for Dust Commander, the horse that won it (or for that matter, the jockey who rode him), but because it became a pivotal moment in sports journalism.

Diane Crump, here in 1969, says women jockeys made a lot of progress during her 30-year career.

New CFL ad campaign targets women and millennials
The TV spot for the CFL’s new marketing campaign opens with a shot of a pre-teen girl walking with her headphones on and pausing near a pickup football game. When the boys on the field spot her, they invite her to play and after a momentary hesitation she joins them on the field. Soon after they hand her the ball she breaks away for a touchdown, proving she belongs and setting the tone for how the league plans to sell itself in 2017. Last month, the Star got an exclusive first look at the TV spot and campaign, set to launch Sunday in the three-week lead-up to training camp. The team behind the campaign explained that its tagline — “Bring It In” — is a virtuous double entendre. On the field, it’s the phrase coaches and captains often shout to summon players to a huddle. In the marketplace, it’s a call for inclusiveness, cutting across demographic lines to invite prospective fans to experience the CFL. The league collaborated with ad firm Bensimon Byrne, the company behind Justin Trudeau’s campaign ads before the 2015 federal election. And with Canada’s 150th anniversary looming, the league and its creative partner hoped to emphasize values they view as Canadian.

The CFL’s new ad campaign, with the catch phrase Bring It In, is aimed at attracting more female fans and launches Sunday.

How black Utah Jazz players have embraced Salt Lake City
The Jazz have not had a reputation for landing major free agents in their history since arriving to Salt Lake City from New Orleans in 1980. Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone, 2017 NBA All-Star Gordon Hayward and defensive standout center Rudy Gobert were draft picks as well as other notable former players like Bailey, Paul Millsap, Deron Williams, Bryon Russell and Mark Eaton. Favors, starting point guard George Hill and reserve forward Boris Diaw came from trades. For most of the team’s black newcomers, there was some worry upon arrival. “I come from a community that was predominantly African-American,” said Griffith, a black Louisville, Kentucky, native who starred at the University of Louisville. “I was used to black women. It was totally different for me. It was different. “The scenic part of Salt Lake City is absolutely beautiful. It snows a lot. But, it was a beautiful city.” For Favors and Millsap, both black, their nervousness stemmed from a lack of knowledge about Utah. “It was a big culture change. I was in the New York [area] first,” said Favors, an Atlanta native who was traded by the New Jersey Nets to the Jazz in February 2011. “To get traded to Utah, that was a big culture change. A lot of people in Atlanta heard of Utah, but they don’t know nothing about Utah. It was a big culture change and a big change for me in general.”

Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday March 9, 2017. Although Salt Lake City can be a difficult place for a black NBA player to live there are still hints of African American culture throughout the city. Kim Raff for The Undefeated

With Baby in Tow, Victoria Azarenka Returns to Tennis — and Her Roots
The stakes are rather higher now: Grand Slam titles, millions of dollars, national pride and, in November, a surprising first Fed Cup final for Belarus against the United States here. But the Darwinian nature of tennis remains the same. Azarenka, once No. 1, is on an extended break after pregnancy, but she is quietly yet fiercely determined to rise again. She will return with a new coach, the former journeyman pro Michael Joyce, and a new traveling companion in her son, Leo, who was born in December. “Yes, I’ll do it for me, because I want to achieve my full potential, but it’s not anymore just for me,” Azarenka said. “I want to have my son be proud of me. I want to give him a good example that if you have a goal and you have a dream, you can achieve it if you work hard.” She resists calling it a comeback. After all, she was not sidelined by injury, illness, burnout or misfortune. But she will effectively be starting from scratch. When Azarenka returns to tennis, most likely in late July for the hardcourt tournament in Stanford, Calif., she will have no official ranking after more than a year away from the game. Instead, she will have a protected ranking of No. 6 that will allow her entry — but no seeding — at eight tournaments, including two Grand Slam events, in the following 12 months.

Julian Finney/Getty Images

Catching Up With Katie Ledecky – Freshman Year Almost Done, Worlds On The Horizon
Katie Ledecky took a psychology seminar at Stanford last fall called “How Beliefs Create Reality,” learned all about sleep and dreams in another course, and one of her classes this quarter is public speaking. The Olympic champion swimmer has had first-hand experience with all of those subjects: She believed in her talent and her training to make winning five medals at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 a reality. Without a doubt some of her dreams have come true. And by age 20 she’s done quite a bit of speaking to the media and audiences. While Ledecky still has five weeks to go at Stanford – where she’s wrapping up her freshman requirements with no declared major just yet – she’s already got an eye on a summer filled with the subject she knows best: swimming. Ledecky is hoping to build on her nine world championships gold medals and is laying the groundwork at meets such as the Arena Pro Swim Series in Atlanta this weekend. While Ledecky competed in two events Friday night, her most impressive time was 12 minutes, 53 seconds. That’s how much time elapsed between the moment Ledecky touched the wall in the 100-meter freestyle – for a commendable fifth-place finish in 54.69 seconds – to the point when she had to be ready on the blocks for the start of the next women’s event, the 400 free. As expected, Ledecky crushed the field in the longer event, finishing in 4:00.98, nearly 7½ seconds faster than Joanna Evans in second. The double looked easy, but it wasn’t.

Katie Ledecky signs autographs at the Arena Pro Swim Series at Mesa at Skyline Aquatic Center on April 15, 2017 in Mesa, Ariz. Getty Images

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