Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #271

Sept. 10 – Sept. 23, 2017

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

  1. Chris Long to donate first six game checks to fund Charlottesville scholarships
  2. Nike Marketing Stunt Evolves Into Nat Geo Documentary
  3. Blue collar to blue chip: How Memphis QB Riley Ferguson went from washing fences to NFL prospect
  4. NFL, United Way & EverFi look to grow ‘Character Playbook’ program
  5. Memo: NFL players ask Roger Goodell for support in racial equality campaign
  6. Soccer In The Streets and The Andrew J. Young Foundation Host Sports Diplomacy Summit
  7. The Chicago Gym Using Fitness As Political Resistance
  8. Michael Phelps: A Golden Shoulder to Lean On
  9. Marine Hero and his companion dog to serve as Celebrate America honorees in Long Island
  10. MLB Partners With Game Plan to Provide Post-Playing Career Transition Services and Resources to Major & Minor League Players

Sab Singh on the importance of emerging sports (Up2Us Sports)
Moving the Goalposts bring the Global Goals World Cup home to Kenya (Beyond Sport)
Palestinian girl footballers break cultural barriers (Peace and Sport)
A Croatian Guy Walks into a Bar (The Players’ Tribune)
Congress session: Coaching the coaches on mental toughness (NAYS)

This past week I had an opportunity to contribute to the blog of one of our favorite organizations, Up2Us Sports. “As the nationwide leader in sports-based youth development, Up2Us Sports harnesses the power of sports to reduce youth violence, promote health, and inspire academic success for kids in every community.”

I was asked to write about a development in sports that could impact the business and the social influence of sports. I wrote about the advent of new sports on both the amateur and professional scenes. This could be a brand new sport for the general public or an alteration of a traditional sport. In each situation, we are seeing increased participation in sport, sometimes by individuals who heretofore, were not that active. This trend of new sports and increased participation bodes well for the financial health of the sport industry as well as the impact it can have on individuals, communities and countries around the world. We love to try new things, see all the technology in the world, and sports should be a source of ingenuity and creativity as well. You can link to the article at Up2Us Sports from our 10+ section above. We also ask that if you come across “new” sports, that you let us know as we would love to showcase them going forward.

The 10 stories we are proud to feature this week include: a heartfelt and hopeful pledge by NFL star Chris Long in response to the events in Charlottesville; a compelling documentary highlighting Nike’s effort to create the first sub-2 hour marathon runner; University of Memphis QB Riley Ferguson, who has found his footing and is excelling at the collegiate level; a fantastic effort involving the NFL to help create a “Character Playbook,” a digital character education program powered by digital learning innovator EVERFI, and presented by the NFL and United Way, that is connecting with young people while in middle school, an incredible impressionable time in their lives; a move by several player leaders in the NFL to make athlete activism a more prominent part of the NFL ecosystem; Soccer In The Streets and The Andrew J. Young Foundation hosting a sports diplomacy summit; a Chicago gym using fitness as a form of political resistance; how Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever, is serving as a resource for others who similarly are dealing with issues of anxiety, depression, and other life challenges; Billy Bruckbauer, a young lacrosse star who found his calling serving America as a Marine; and an effort by professional baseball to help ensure the long-term, post-playing success of its players.

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So, enjoy. And have a good week.

Chris Long to donate first six game checks to fund Charlottesville scholarships
Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long watched Charlottesville, Virginia — his home town — get plunged into turmoil in August when white supremacists took to the streets in protest and violence erupted. A car attack left one woman dead and 19 injured. Now, Long and his wife are trying to do something about it. Long has pledged his first six 2017 game checks to provide two students with a seven-year paid education program in Charlottesville. The scholarships will be for Long’s alma mater, St. Anne’s Belfield School. Long played his entire career with Rams until 2016, when he joined the Patriots and won a Super Bowl ring. He now plays for Philadelphia, where he’s already notched a sack for his new team. He has been outspoken about the unrest in Charlottesville, saying in August to “Some people are tired of hearing me tweet because they want me to stick to football but I like to use social media like I was a regular guy because I think I am. I don’t tell people to stick to their job when they want to talk politics. And this isn’t political. That’s the thing. Everybody is trying to turn this political. This isn’t a political issue. This is right or wrong.”

Nike Marketing Stunt Evolves Into Nat Geo Documentary
At what point does a sports merchandiser become a content creation company? Perhaps when they partner with National Geographic Channel to produce an hour-long documentary chronicling the attempt by three runners to complete a marathon in a record-breaking two hours—while subtly plugging their own products. That’s exactly what Nike has done with Breaking 2, set to debut September 20 on the cable network. The innovative advertiser expertly blends the line between editorial and marketing with a film that touts a strong narrative and stands on its own as a valuable piece of entertainment. Nike commissioned a race that began on May 5, 2017 in Monza, Italy, at 5:45 a.m. There were no crowds cheering, no throng of competitors to contend with; just a quiet, tense morning for a handful of runners beneath a rising sun. A black Tesla Model S with a digital clock mounted on its roof led them around a track, displaying their splits and helping them maintain a constant pace. Nike live streamed the whole thing, and more than 13.1 million viewers tuned in across Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, with another 6.9 million catching up after it was over, Variety reports.

Blue collar to blue chip: How Memphis QB Riley Ferguson went from washing fences to NFL prospect
Ferguson has come a long way from an eight-month hiatus from football in 2014, one that saw him detailing cars at a Kia dealership for $7 per hour before upgrading to his $9 per hour job at the fence company. Ferguson recalls the tipping point in his time away from football coming on a day when he didn’t have enough money to buy lunch. “I sat at the warehouse by myself,” Ferguson told Yahoo Sports. “I said, ‘This is unbelievable.’ I’m sitting here hungry and have no money. I know I could be doing something else with my life.” From fence posts to post patterns, Ferguson’s stop-and-go route from blue-collar grunt work to blue-chip NFL draft prospect is one of the most unique journeys in college football. And his vagabond path – three-star recruit to manual labor to JUCO rehabilitation – offers the perfect contrast to Rosen. In just three seasons after arriving at UCLA as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback, Rosen projects as a top-10 NFL draft pick. Ferguson arrived at this moment after his football career went from conventional to circuitous during the spring of 2014. That’s when a former can’t-miss prospect from the Class of 2013 went missing.

Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson threw a school-record 32 touchdown passes last year. (AP)

NFL, United Way & EverFi look to grow ‘Character Playbook’ program
Character Playbook, a digital character education program powered by digital learning innovator EVERFI, and presented by the NFL and United Way, has helped 88,000 middle school students in nearly 30 states learn how to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships in its first year. This initiative is yet another example of the NFL Foundation working hard to support the health and wellness of young people and communities engaged in football in the U.S. Building off the success of last year, the program will expand to 360 more schools and introduce a new virtual classroom experience called Character Playbook LIVE. These interactive events, hosted by NFL teams and United Way beginning in Week 2 of the regular season, will engage more students in the important conversation of why character matters. NFL players will also get involved as they host live events with their local United Way. For the second year, Verizon will sponsor an additional 220 schools in 11 select markets. Data compiled by EVERFI during the program’s first year indicates that approximately 1,300 teachers helped students complete more than 170,000 hours of learning, which led to increased understanding of key social-emotional topics — a 41 percent increase based on pre- and post-assessment scores.

Memo: NFL players ask Roger Goodell for support in racial equality campaign
While Bennett and Jenkins have each taken part in national anthem protests before NFL games, all four players have had strong voices in a growing platform of players speaking out on a variety of social issues. According to two league sources familiar with the letter, the communication came on the heels of Goodell talking directly with several players in August – including some who have protested on game day – in an effort to move player activism into a progressive direction. The source said Bennett, Jenkins, Boldin and Smith replied to that call with their co-authored memo to Goodell, aimed at requesting direct support from the NFL in their efforts. “To be clear, we are asking for your support,” a portion of the memo reads. “We appreciate your acknowledgement on the call regarding the clear distinction between support and permission. For us, support means: bear all or part of the weight of; hold up; give assistance to, especially financially; enable to function or act. We need support, collaboration and partnerships to achieve our goal of strengthening the community. There are a variety of ways for you to get involved. Similar to the model we have in place for players to get involved, there are three tiers of engagement based on your comfort level. To start, we appreciate your agreement on making this an immediate priority. In your words, from Protest to Progress, we need action.”

Michael Bennett is one of four current and former players to send the memo to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. (Getty)

Soccer In The Streets and The Andrew J. Young Foundation Host Sports Diplomacy Summit
The Summit, held at Station Soccer at MARTA’s Five Points Station, provided the opportunity for more than fifty African-American, Latino and Refugee children from metro Atlanta to participate in this cultural exchange with children from Cote d’Ivoire and Niger; all thanks to the power of soccer in uniting people from different backgrounds. The main goal was for this diverse group “to play for a purpose”, understanding the application of education concepts of soccer in conflict resolution. “To partner with the Andrew J. Young Foundation in order to bring cultural exchange through soccer to our community is truly special,” said Phil Hill, Soccer in the Streets’ Executive Director. “We know how powerful sports are in terms of shaping young minds and instilling positive behavior; harnessing that power to promote cultural enrichment, inclusion and diversity to our kids is one of our main goals.”

With the support of the State Department and The Audacity Agency, African-American, Latino and Refugee children from metro Atlanta participate in an exchange at Station Soccer with children from Cote d’Ivoire and Niger

The Chicago Gym Using Fitness As Political Resistance
Haymaker’s political nature plays out in several ways. For starters, its high-caliber fitness programming at low to no cost stands in stark contrast to the mainstream workout culture of luxury gyms and moisture-wicking apparel subscriptions. “Gyms often require a lot of money, so memberships and classes are not available to everyone,” Kaur explains. There’s also a tendency in the fitness world to represent and idealize only a narrow spectrum of body types. “Gyms tend to be places where people go to get more good-looking,” Kaur says. “Even as we start to see more body positivity, it’s not generally rooted in a politics that really welcomes all bodies, that prioritizes people of different abilities and gender identities. Creating a space of heterogeneity is one of the things we’re doing differently.” Most fitness regimens exist to fulfill individualized objectives — think weight loss, health optimization, or competition. Haymaker points to what else is possible, and arguably necessary, through physical training. “For us, there is something inherently political about defending your own life against forces of oppression, particularly when certain lives are deemed less valuable or not valuable at all in our society,” says Patrick McNeill, one of the gym’s co-organizers.

Michael Phelps: A Golden Shoulder to Lean On
“I want to be able to get out in public and talk and say, ‘Yes, I’ve done these great things in the pool, but I’m also a human,’ ” Phelps said, sweeping his gaze across the restaurant. “I’m going through the same struggles as a lot of the people in this room.” Phelps has started some public speaking on the topic and has become an informal counselor to the stars, lending an ear to the golfer Tiger Woods after his arrest in May on charges of driving under the influence. A toxicology report revealed no alcohol in Woods’s system, but rather a mix of four prescription drugs and the active ingredient in marijuana. “I feel like that’s a massive scream for help,” Phelps said. Over the summer, Phelps said, he met an 11-year-old boy in California who had appeared in a documentary about anxiety. The boy was a swimmer, and he said he had wrestled with suicidal thoughts the year before. Phelps told the boy about the days he spent curled up in bed, “literally wanting to die,” after his second D.U.I. arrest. At the end of the conversation, Phelps said, the boy told him, “I have more in common with Michael Phelps than I ever thought.” Hackett, a rapt listener, said, “That’s awesome.”

Grant Hackett, left, and Michael Phelps at Scottsdale National Golf Club in Arizona last month. Phelps has been helping Hackett cope with mental health problems similar to the ones he has confronted. Credit Caitlin O’Hara for The New York Times

Marine Hero and his companion dog to serve as Celebrate America honorees in Long Island
For his courage and valor, the former all-American lacrosse player has been awarded nearly as many medals as Michael Phelps, including the Iraqi campaign medal with two gold stars, the Marine Corps achievement medal, a combat action ribbon and good conduct medal. Bruckbauer, the youngest of four boys, was born and raised in Levittown, the prototypical American suburb of affordable tract houses built for soldiers returning from World War II. His brothers were hard-core athletes. Billy followed suit, receiving a full lacrosse scholarship at New York Tech. Two years into college, Bruckbauer realized he was only going to school to play lacrosse. There was a giant world out there beyond the practice field and goal nets. At 19, he had achieved all his goals in New York. He felt a pull toward something much bigger. “I was thinking, ‘How can I create an impact and create a legacy? How can I make a difference? What can I do now so that I’m a better father when I have kids?” Following training at Parris Island, South Carolina, and Camp Pendleton in California, a gung ho and highly motived lacrosse star deployed to Iraq. During top-secret combat missions, his team was blown up a few times and he lost close friends. “Combat was very high paced and intense and a reality check for sure,” Bruckbauer said.

MLB Partners With Game Plan to Provide Post-Playing Career Transition Services and Resources to Major & Minor League Players
Major League Baseball and Game Theory Group International, Inc. ( today announced a partnership to provide post-playing career transition services and resources to Major and Minor League Players via the Game Plan platform. MLB’s partnership with Game Plan will include access to Game Plan’s platform, which contains a career and mentor marketplace as well as assessment tools and on-demand learning courses that focus on life after sport and career development.  In addition to players, the customized Game Plan platform will be accessible to Major League Club personnel and other groups throughout Major League Baseball.  This innovative partnership is designed to support the objectives of MLB’s Front Office and Field Staff Diversity Pipeline Program by providing dedicated career development resources to prepare players of all backgrounds for potential roles in the front office or on field staffs in the game after their playing careers end. Paul Mifsud, MLB’s Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Labor Relations & Player Programs, said: “Even the most successful playing careers end.  Through our partnership with Game Plan, we hope to provide players with additional career development support as they prepare to embark on the next phase of their professional journeys.”

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