Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #270

Aug. 27 – Sept. 9, 2017

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

  1. Industry Leaders Rally to Grow Youth Sports Participation
  2. An NFL Team’s Revolutionary Approach To Helping A Neighborhood
  3. The Second Act of Nnamdi Asomugha
  4. Rookie Younghoe Koo wins Chargers kicking competition, continuing his fantastic story
  5. US Teams and Leagues show unity for communities hit by Hurricane Harvey
  6. From UConn legend to leading analyst, Rebecca Lobo gets call to Naismith Hall of Fame
  7. Liberty on His Mind, Doubles Champion Seizes Opportunity at the Mike
  8. How three cancer survivors designed Oregon’s newest uniforms
  9. Talking Football With Beth Mowins, the First Woman in 30 Years to Broadcast an NFL Game
  10. Sloane Stephens v Madison Keys: a landmark final between firm friends

Global Goals World Cup Finals Return to NYC (Beyond Sport)
Roaring Back (by James Franklin) (The Players’ Tribune)
A Love Letter to Lacrosse (by Kyle Sweeney) (The Players’ Tribune)
NHL & NHLPA unveil hockey’s Declaration of Principles (Beyond Sport)
Football: German female ref ready to whistle in Bundesliga (Peace and Sport)

This past week a group of leaders across multiple industries came together to address once again a real problem happening in our society, i.e. the reduction in the amount of sports that young people are playing. The obvious physical and emotional consequences, along with the maybe not so obvious negative economic impact that such a trend portends, were part of the discussion during the get together hosted by The Aspen Institute. Already a leader in the youth sports space, the Aspen Institute brought these organizations together to “double down” on their commitment to develop generations of citizens who will experience immediate and long-term benefits from participating in sports. Please check out the project’s website at to learn more.

The other stories we are happy to feature this week include: the Atlanta Falcons and their effort to positively impact their community in substantive ways; the post football-playing life for former NFL star Nnamdi Asomugha; rookie field goal kicker Younghoe Koo of the Los Angeles Chargers and his “immigrant story”; the rallying of individuals, teams, and leagues to help those impacted by the recent slate of hurricanes; the ascension of former women’s basketball star Rebecca Lobo to the Basketball Hall of Fame; the opportunity taken by a professional tennis player, Jean-Julien Rojer, at the U.S. Open to state his support for those from other countries who are looking to find their way in the United States; how three young cancer survivors designed the uniforms for the always fashion-forward Oregon Ducks; an interview with female broadcasting pioneer, Beth Mowins; and the clash between two up-and-coming U.S. tennis stars, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys.

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Industry Leaders Rally to Grow Youth Sports Participation
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred will keynote the Project Play Summit. More than 50 speakers will take measure of the state of youth sports, and explore opportunities for progress within Project Play’s eight strategy areas. Research shows that engaging children in sport and physical activity unleashes a virtuous cycle that bears myriad rewards for individuals, families, and society. Lifting the number of youth who get and stay active will save tens of billions of dollars in direct medical costs and economic productivity losses alone, according to an analysis by the Johns Hopkins researchers. “We believe that together we can help more kids play sports. Our mission is to inspire young people, and to provide a pathway to participation, for every athlete, from every background, for every sport,” said Justin Kaufenberg, CEO of SportsEngine, an NBC Sports Group company. “We’re incredibly proud to join Project Play 2020, and partner with each of the contributing member organizations.” “Progress depends on the connecting of silos,” said Tom Farrey, executive director, the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program. “We look forward to facilitating the effort and helping identify opportunities.” For more information on The Aspen Institute and Project Play 2020, please visit:

(PRNewsfoto/The Aspen Institute)…

An NFL Team’s Revolutionary Approach To Helping A Neighborhood
“As you probably have read and know, sports stadiums get a bad rap for a lot of reasons,” says Frank Fernandez, vice president of community development for the Arther M. Blank Family Foundation. “We’re committed. You can’t have this beautiful thing that is going to help define the skyline of Atlanta next to some of the most marginalized and disenfranchised communities in the city,” he says. To combat that perception, the Blank Foundation has spent the last three years working with these communities and outside partners to invest in and build up these neighborhoods just blocks from the stadium. By the end of this year, the Blank Foundation will have invested $22 million into the area’s revitalization. When the Blank Foundation reached out to the community, the number one thing they heard from residents was “I need a job.” They created Westside Works, a workforce development center that provides free job training and opportunities in areas such as construction, culinary arts, health care, IT, and soon, childcare. To date, Westside residents involved in the program have earned over $12 million. Over 160 residents in the program were placed in construction jobs and helped to build the new stadium.

The Second Act of Nnamdi Asomugha
If it seems difficult to reconcile Asomugha’s newfound seriousness and purpose with the guy before, the one who was one of the best NFL cornerbacks of the last decade, consider this: A corner’s job is to read the same receivers—to figure out, through their body language and previous performances, where they’re going to go, and why. Acting takes a similar kind of focus, because to play someone accurately you’ve got to really know them; know why they do what they do, know what’s going on in their heads. In professional football, as in professional acting, you have to watch footage of yourself performing to learn what not to do. Although there are some differences. Asomugha recalls watching game film during his NFL days, a process that involved watching himself play over and over again in pursuit of perfection. But with acting?. “If I watch [myself] too many times, I turn into a robot. That’s what you can’t do in this business.” Still, the Audience Award Crown Heights won at Sundance shows that Asomugha doesn’t seem to have had much trouble adapting. So maybe it’s not so strange after all that a former NFL player might produce one of the year’s more memorable on-screen performances. Football gave Nnamdi Asomugha physical and mental toughness. Film widened his awareness of the world. But it’s his own life that marries the two. An acting coach once told Asomugha that he’d always be fine if he just used his personal experience. I’ll be waiting eagerly to see what he draws on next.

Rookie Younghoe Koo wins Chargers kicking competition, continuing his fantastic story
NFL teams had to reduce their rosters from the training camp limit of 90 players to 53 on Saturday, meaning a lot of players saw their dreams dashed. There will be dozens more moves made in the days ahead as teams pick up a player or two who was let go by a different club. But a lot of players see their dreams come true on this day. One of them is a most unlikely NFL player, a 5-foot-9, South Korean born former soccer standout who didn’t really learn how to speak English until he was 12 years old. Meet Younghoe Koo. Koo, an All-Sun Belt Conference kicker at Georgia Southern, moved to New Jersey with his family in sixth grade. In a profile by the Bergen Record’s Tara Sullivan just after signing with the Los Angeles Chargers as an undrafted rookie, Koo says his first weeks at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, N.J. were lonely – he didn’t understand the customs or the language, and worst of all, he didn’t have any friends. But sports became his path to solving all of those problems.

A decade after coming to the United States from South Korea and picking up football as a way to make friends, Younghoe Koo is the Chargers kicker. (AP)

US Teams and Leagues show unity for communities hit by Hurricane Harvey
This week, teams and leagues from across the United States have been flocking to offer their support to the many families and communities torn apart by the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in southern Texas. The NFL Foundation and NBA Cares are among the organizations to pledge donations to those affected by the catastrophic flooding, as well as teams based across the state. The reaction by professional sport in the US is a further demonstration of the important role that teams, leagues, players and executives can play in galvanising society during periods of strife. Using their global platform to raise funds and support, and even using facilities and stadia as makeshift shelters or places to collect donations is making a huge difference. The Houston Texans, with the help of their star player JJ Watt, have managed to raise over $10 million for the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund but that figure is still expected to rise over the coming weeks. Watt said he has been “inspired by the humanity” he has seen in the aftermath of the tragedy, and that he is “eager to start rebuilding Houston” as soon as possible. The Houston Rockets’ owner Leslie Alexander is also giving a staggering donation of $10 million to the relief fund set up by the Mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner. The NBA and NBAPA have also joined a $1 million pledge to the cause, focusing their money on American Red Cross and other non-profit organizations working in the Greater Houston area.

From UConn legend to leading analyst, Rebecca Lobo gets call to Naismith Hall of Fame
And as she is enshrined this weekend into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, a kaleidoscope of these memories will play in her head. But there’s something extra special: The Hall is in Springfield, Massachusetts, just 13 miles from where Lobo grew up. She became a basketball legend in Storrs, Connecticut, 48 miles from the Hall. And when she married sportswriter/author Steve Rushin in 2003, they had their wedding reception at the Hall. They hadn’t set out to do that; after they’d looked around, a caterer just happened to mention the Hall as a possibility. When you talk to Lobo, she gives you the sense that this is the story: Things mostly always working out for her. That she’s someone who has often been in the right place at the right time. “There are so many factors that allowed my career not just to be what it was, but for people to be aware of it,” Lobo said, referencing things like the increased media exposure the Huskies got in the mid-1990s. “Timing played such a big part in this. The biggest part in many ways.”But that shortchanges the woman herself, someone who has meant so much to the sport not just as a player, but as an icon and a broadcaster.

Rebecca Lobo thought of herself as a typical college kid, but she was exceptional at UConn, leading the program to its first NCAA title in 1995 as the Final Four’s most outstanding player. Bob Stowell/Getty Images

Liberty on His Mind, Doubles Champion Seizes Opportunity at the Mike
“I’ve been wearing it all around,” he added. “I have the Lady Liberty jacket, and I have another one that has a bunch of people locked in arms — a civil rights march. Hopefully we’re moving in that direction.” Rojer, who was born in Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles, invoked his own experience as an immigrant to the United States, having moved to Florida at 12 to better pursue his tennis ambitions. “It’s a great country, and I’m happy that they let me in and that I got to do my job here,” Rojer said. “Hopefully, we will create those opportunities for everybody.” The unexpected message was warmly received by the crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Anthony Law, the founder of Gunn Athletic, Rojer’s clothing sponsor, pumped his fist as Rojer spoke. Law had designed the shirt, which had to be in the same neon-yellow-and-black color palette as Tecau’s Mizuno shirt, to capture Rojer’s message about America in a positive, universal way. “What I thought symbolized everything which is good about this country is the Statue of Liberty: that wonderful, welcoming statue you see when you come in,” said Law, who is British. “Liberty, freedom, peace and love: That’s what it should be about.”

Jean-Julien Rojer, left, alongside his doubles partner, Horia Tecau, spoke with an ESPN reporter Friday after the two won the doubles title. Rojer wore a shirt bearing the image of the Statue of Liberty. Credit Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

How three cancer survivors designed Oregon’s newest uniforms
When the Oregon Ducks (1-0) host Nebraska (1-0) for Saturday’s crucial nonconference bout, all eyes will yet again be on what the Ducks are wearing. With the Ducks always visually pushing the envelope and creating new ways to mix and match with their myriad uniform combinations, Saturday’s wardrobe will sport an extra special message. This batch of threads comes from the creative minds of cancer survivors Sophia Malinoski, 10; Ethan Frank, 13; and Joe MacDonald, 14, from the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon. Working with three Oregon football players and three Nike designers, these three designed Oregon’s new “Nike Vapor Untouchable Performance System” uniforms. The gear will include inspiring graphics, camouflage and motivational slogans that are personal to the three survivors. “When we get suited up and put everything on, we’re going to be representing more than just the University of Oregon,” said offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby, who worked with Malinoski to help design part of the Ducks’ outfit. “It’s fun being a part of something that’s bigger than just me, bigger than this university, and affects a lot of kids.” For the past 14 years, Doernbecher Children’s Hospital patients have worked with Nike designers and developers to create footwear and apparel that has raised nearly $17 million to help fund pioneering medical research, purchase state-of-the-art equipment, recruit leading pediatric specialists and cover the cost of care for families in need.

Joe McDonald, Sophie Malinoski and Ethan Frank helped design Oregon’s “Stomp Out Cancer” uniforms. Courtesy of Nike

Talking Football With Beth Mowins, the First Woman in 30 Years to Broadcast an NFL Game
Beth Mowins knows there will be viewers who think her Monday Night Football game-calling assignment on September 11 is a stunt or political correctness run amok from ESPN. But she has no interest in exerting any energy over those who do not believe she should be calling an NFL game. “I learned a long time ago that you don’t ask why you did or why you didn’t get a job, you simply say thank you very much and work your tail off to keep it. Or you work your tail off to get the next one,” Mowins said. “I am most focused on doing a respectful job and earning the respect of my peers and my family. I understand I will not please everybody and I always try the best I can not to listen to negative people with negative attitudes. Life is too short for that.” As part of an MMQB assignment last month in Cleveland on fledgling NFL broadcasters participating in practice games to prepare for the regular season, I shadowed Mowins and Rex Ryan in Cleveland as they called a Browns-Giants exhibition game. During that assignment, Mowins and I sat down for 40-minute conversation on a variety of topics including the significance of being the first woman to call a regular-season NFL game since 1987. She will call the Chargers at Broncos as part of the opening week Monday Night Football doubleheader.

Mowins, who has been doing Raiders preseason games since 2016, will call multiple NFL games for CBS this season, in addition to her MNF season-opener. Courtesy ESPN

Sloane Stephens v Madison Keys: a landmark final between firm friends
It is unlikely the forgotten contender Sloane Stephens ever imagined her summer comeback would pitch her into the final of the 2017 US Open against her good friend Madison Keys but, after a fortnight of craziness, here they are. On Saturday they will put aside all of that to do all of this, and make a little tennis history. For Stephens, just getting into the tournament was an achievement. She had spent 11 months out with a foot injury, the early part of that on crutches and wondering if she would ever play again, then she made a charge on the hard court scene here that surprised her as much as her rivals. When Venus Williams was carving out her own fairytale at the Australian Open this year – almost as unlikely a finalist there as Stephens is here – the younger American was on nobody’s radar but her doctor’s. After she beat Williams in the semi-finals – 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 – she revealed what she was doing all those months ago: “I had just had surgery. I had a massive cast on. I couldn’t walk, so I was planted on my couch for, like, two weeks. And I just watched tennis.” She got a closer look at Williams on Thursday but had to overcome an extraordinary lapse in the second set to overpower the ninth seed in the third. Williams, who has struggled with her own health issues since 2011 and is a monument to longevity at 37, switched back to her most introverted mode in a post-match press conference of answers shorter than many of the rallies.

Just getting into the US Open was an achievement for Sloane Stephens who had spent 11 months out with a foot injury. Photograph: Icon Sport via Getty Images

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