Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award
In honor of Stuart Scott, this award celebrates people that have taken risk and used an innovative approach to helping the disadvantaged through the power of sports. Successful candidates will personify the ethos of fairness, ethics, respect and fellowship with others.
2021 Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award Honorees
In 2003, Frank Kipp founded and opened Blackfeet Nation Boxing Club at the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana to help all children with bullying, suicide prevention and drug and alcohol prevention, while also providing these kids with a safe place for them to find belonging and learn the art of boxing. Kipp has devoted his life to teaching, training and mentoring more than 500 of the club's fighters, where they learn how to fight for respect, identity, acknowledgement, protection and survival. The club provides a safe harbor for those who want to learn and protect themselves - when Kipp saw that some of his fighters were coming to the gym hungry, he started serving meals after training sessions and opened a clothing and food bank out of a warehouse until the building was taken away. When kids were underdressed, he found them clothes and gear. And in a year when the pandemic devastated the reservation, Kipp never stopped fighting for the young people of Blackfeet Nation.
Like so many children, Baseball Hall of Famer and four-time World Series Champion Joe Torre grew up in a violent home where he watched his mother endure abuse from his father, and consequentially never felt safe. As an adult, Torre realized too many children also live and suffer with this fear and are unaware of how to ask for help. Torre founded the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation (SAH) to empower and provide healing services to traumatized youth exposed to violence, while educating them to end the cycle of domestic violence and save lives. Each year, SAH provides services to more than 19,000 young people in schools and communities, many of whom are impacted by trauma and violence. SAH's multi-faceted school-based program, Margaret's Place - named after Torre's mother - provides integrated and comprehensive healing services to youth, and has reached over 109,000 young people, with 95% of students noting they are more hopeful about the future and 94% sharing they feel safer. And with Council on Criminal Justice reporting that domestic violence incidents have increased due to COVID-19 lockdown orders, SAH is committed to providing additional support to children so they can overcome these traumatic experiences.
Tom Walter and Kevin Jordan
After learning his student-athlete, Kevin Jordan, was in desperate need of a new kidney, Wake Forest Baseball Coach Tom Walter successfully donated his kidney to Jordan just days before the 2011 season, exemplifying an important lesson that despite being of different generations and backgrounds, their blood was the same. The two have since shared a special bond and remained close. Nearly ten years after the transplant, the world watched a video of George Floyd's murder, which led to Jordan talking with Walter, about his fear, frustration and hurt, and how they - and their story of togetherness - could impact positive change. After several conversations, the coach and his former player created Get In the Game to educate and empower young people to take action in their homes, schools and communities and build a more diverse and equitable society. In its inaugural season, Get In the Game launched programs for middle and high school students, facilitated by trained educators, where youth, known as "GameChangers," integrate principles of self-inquiry, cross-cultural communication and social movement strategy to foster challenging yet meaningful conversations on race and social justice, and inspire each other to be more intentional about listening, speaking up and taking action.
After their son Tyler, the former quarterback at Washington State, tragically took his own life, Mark and Kym Hilinski created Hilinski's Hope Foundation (H3H) to raise awareness around mental health and ultimately honor their son. H3H is helping colleges and universities across the United States save lives, eliminate stigma and scale mental wellness programs for student athletes, and thus far has raised over half a million dollars to fund these programs. By sharing Tyler's story, H3H connects students with mental health resources, and the foundation also assists universities to institutionalize best practices. Since its inception in 2018, H3H has visited and sent mental health professionals to more than 50 schools and universities. H3H also has attended and spoken at over two dozen conferences, impacting more than 50,000 people. Together with a group of students from Washington State, H3H launched 3 FOR 3 Burpee challenge in 2019 to 'get up for those who are down' to destigmatize mental illness. Hilinski's Hope recently organized a call-to-action for colleges and universities nationwide to participate in the inaugural College Football Mental Health Awareness Week, October 3-10, in conjunction with Mental Illness Awareness Week, October 4-10. The week will kick off on October 3, known as 3DAY, honoring Tyler, those lost, and those suffering and will culminate with World Mental Health Day on October 10.
WNBA and WNBPA
This year, the WNBA and WNBPA announced a groundbreaking, eight-year collective bargaining agreement that charts a new course for women's professional sports. The strategic and unified collaboration between the league and the players' association resulted in a landmark pact that will serve as a template to other professional women - in sport and other sectors of society. The CBA features significant investments by the team owners, including; increases player salary and compensation; motherhood and family planning elements; and quality of life enhancements such as mental health benefits and domestic/intimate partner violence counseling. Additionally, the WNBA and the players have worked together and will continue to stand up and speak out on behalf of injustice and marginalized communities. The players have demonstrated 144 united and unwavering black, brown, and white voices committed to voting rights, supporting #BlackLivesMatter and a consistent and continuing denouncement of police brutality and excessive force. Together the bold advocacy of the league and the players has included promoting equality and opportunity in sport through these social justice efforts, and through the #HerTimeToPlay program, participating in LGBTQ+ pride demonstrations against discrimination and hosting breast cancer awareness events.
Since 1979, hardline conservatives in Iran enforced an unwritten rule to exclude women from attending men's soccer matches, citing the inappropriate environment of "profane language" and "half-naked men" (the athletes). Beginning in 2014, Maryam Shojaei anonymously addressed and criticized the ban on social media. She continued her activism a year later, when she traveled to Australia to attend the Asian Football Confederation Tournament and held a banner throughout the game, which called for Iranian women to be allowed to enter stadiums, and it caught the attention the media. A few months later, Shojaei attended the FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada where she also displayed the banner and gained international interest, forming a coalition with global human rights and sports activists. In 2018, the international coalition helped Shojaei create the #NoBan4Women petition, and she traveled to the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Despite her banner receiving prior approval to display, as the extensive global news coverage it received, Shojaei was detained and her banner was confiscated after the first match. However, Shojaei persisted and the #NoBan4Women petition - which received hundreds of thousands of signatures - shifted focus from the Iranian Football Federation's discrimination against women to FIFA's responsibility to enforce their own human rights and gender discrimination policies. Throughout 2019, Shojaei and the coalition maintained public and private pressure on FIFA to uphold its own policies or disqualify Iran from the World Cup qualifier match for noncompliance. By October, FIFA sent a delegation to Iran allowing access for thousands of Iranian women and girls to attend the match qualifier match.
Khalifeh, a Taekwondo champion with 20 gold medals under her belt from national and international competitions, saw first-hand that women in her home country of Jordan, and all over the Middle East, were experiencing high levels of domestic violence. She created SheFighter, the first women's-only, self-defense school in the Middle East, to empower women both physically and psychologically through martial arts. Since its inception in 2012, Khalifeh has trained more than 18,000 women globally, as well as 4,000 Syrian refugees, has grown to studios in over 35 countries, as she works with women all over the world to learn self-defense and inspires them to take on active roles in society.
Trent, the legendary Purdue fan's story of courage and hope inspired and captivated a nation throughout his battle with the rare bone cancer osteosarcoma. Relentless in his battle, he never allowed cancer to prevent him from living out his dreams in sports journalism and serving others. He spent the final days of his life at home in hospice care, but Trent was committed to sharing his story to raise money to eradicate the disease and improve the lives of others who face a similar battle. The Indiana native rose to national recognition and befriended many members of the sports industry, using his new platform to encourage fans to donate to cancer research -- raising more than $2.2 million for Purdue University, the Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health and the V Foundation.
NBA Legend David Robinson epitomizes leadership through service, giving considerable care to be strategic, thoughtful and impactful in his approach to philanthropy. He uses his learnings from his decades of service to mentor and counsel other athletes on how to make strategic and lasting social change. Sixteen years ago, Robinson followed his dream of helping to create equal access to education for all students in his hometown of San Antonio. Despite being told it was too difficult of a challenge, he took a risk and launched what was then called Carver Academy. It began as a small parochial school serving 120 elementary students. But through ingenuity and hard work, it grew into a publicly-funded charter school that now enrolls more than 1,100 mostly low-income Hispanic and African American students. Over the last 16 years, every single child has matriculated to college. Robinson has been innovative in sustaining his support, starting his own private equity firm that sets aside 10% of its profits to fund his good deeds. Robinson is also the recipient of 2002-03 NBA J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award and the 2008 Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award.
Global Sports Mentoring Program
The Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP) was created in 2012 by the U.S. Department of State and espnW to engage, inspire, and empower a new generation of women and girls through sports. Administered by the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society at the University of Tennessee, the GSMP pairs emerging women leaders from around the world with American women senior executives from top organizations in sports and business. During the program, mentors share valuable leadership skills and work with emerging leaders in developing strategic action plans aimed at creating sports opportunities for underserved women and girls in their home countries. Since 2012, the 99 graduates of the program have returned home to launch NGOs, affect public policy, and transform communities by providing access and opportunity to girls where none previously existed. Collectively, the emerging leaders have directly impacted more than 225,000 individuals through their work.
WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon has the unique opportunity both as an on screen performer and the primary spokesperson for WWE's corporate social responsibility initiatives to help raise funds and awareness for partners including Make-A-Wish, Special Olympics, Susan G. Komen, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Be a STAR, WWE's anti-bullying program. Her innovative approach to giving back is highlighted through her passion for pediatric cancer research, which began after meeting 8-year-old WWE fan Connor Michalek, who was battling medulloblastoma, a rare tumor that affects the brain and spinal cord. Connor formed a special connection with Stephanie, Paul "Triple H" Levesque and many WWE Superstars, who were enamored with his energy and determination to fight his debilitating form of cancer. When Connor lost his battle in 2014, Stephanie and Paul honored him by creating Connor's Cure, a fund at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where Connor was being treated. Under McMahon's leadership, WWE expanded Connor's Cure into a national fund in partnership with the V Foundation for Cancer Research. To date, Connor's Cure has raised more than $1.5 million and assisted 240 families around the world.
Orlando City Soccer Club #OrlandoUnited
On June 12, 2016, a gunman opened fire at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando killing 49 people. Six days later, Orlando City SC held the first professional sporting event following the tragic attack in Central Florida. Though it came with risk, the club and its dedicated supporters crafted a bold, inspired and innovative response. Every aspect of the match was a dedication to those whose lives were lost-from the inspirational music played at pregame, down to the rainbow-colored corner flags on the field. The families of the victims along with first responders were recognized before the game. Every Orlando City SC player wore #OrlandoUnited patches on their jersey, black armbands and rainbow wristbands. At the 49th minute of play, the game was intentionally stopped for the first time in MLS history for a moment of silence to honor the 49 victims. A section of seats was left empty at midfield, filled only with a single colorful balloon-later to be memorialized with 49 dedicated rainbow-colored seats in Section 12 of the club's new stadium. The club, in its second year in the league, took a stand to define their character and commitment for respect and inclusion. And their commitment continues: Orlando City SC has already raised $500,000 for the OneOrlando Fund.
The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality
In October 2015, Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross took a risk by driving awareness to the conversation of race relations in the United States. He established the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) to harness the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress. Ross has worked tirelessly on the project, engaging and personally recruiting influential leaders to be part of RISE's board of directors, including all of the major sports league commissioners and sports broadcast executives. Since its founding, RISE programs have reached more than 30,000 students, coaches and athletic staff. Innovative programs include the RISE High School Leadership program, which empowers coaches and student-athletes to be leaders in discussing and addressing matters of racism. After completion, 92% said they have the skills to have difficult conversations about race. RISE also has partnered with the Detroit Police Athletic League directly linking youth with law enforcement, thereby creating conversation and shared relationships. In teaming up with the NBA and the New Orleans Pelicans on the Saturday Morning Hoops program, which includes participation from officers in the New Orleans Police Department, 89% of youth stated they felt trusted and appreciated by the police.
Billie Jean King
For decades Billie Jean King used her platform as a tennis star to champion equal pay and opportunity for all. From advocating for the passage of Title IX, to founding the Women's Sports Foundation in an effort to increase girls' access to sports, King has paved the way for equality in women's sports. In 2014, she embarked on a new phase of her journey for inclusion: the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, whose sole focus is to move the needle on issues impacting diverse talent in the workplace. With women and minorities vastly underrepresented in executive positions, King is using research to inspire future leaders and to motivate people in positions of power to promote diverse identities.
Robert Kraft has donated hundreds of millions to charities since becoming the owner of the New England Patriots-yet it's not just the number that's impressive, but the innovative and personal way he's leaving an imprint on communities across the region. Kraft is a fierce advocate for ensuring all residents of New England have access to quality health care. To that end, he's investing millions of dollars to attract the best clinicians to assist the most underserved populations through the community healthcare systems. He started a fellowship that provides coursework at Harvard, mentoring, clinical practice and even a student-loan repayment of $50,000 per year in return for a three-year commitment to community health following completion of the program.
2015 University of Missouri Football Team
Racial tensions were becoming increasingly strained at the University of Missouri last fall. Frustrations gave rise to protests - one of the most notable coming when a student at the school began a hunger strike. Students were demanding action, and the Mizzou Tigers football team stepped in and announced that they would boycott their upcoming game unless changes were made. The players took a huge risk - their scholarships could have been revoked and their futures hung in the balance. But their actions indicated it was a risk worth taking to help bring action to this critical issue.
"Like A Girl" Campaign
Always, the world's leading feminine care brand, launched a social experiment to address the drop in confidence girls experience at puberty and change the negative perception of the phrase "like a girl" into one that means downright amazing things. Through a viral video that later aired as a Super Bowl commercial, the Always #LikeAGirl campaign challenged girls, boys, women and men worldwide to change the way they think about and use phrases like "throw like a girl" and "run like girl" which proved to have a profound impact. Prior to viewing the film, only 19% of girls had a positive association toward the phrase "like a girl." After watching the video, 76% of girls ages 16-24 no longer see the phrase as an insult, and two out of three men who watched said they would stop or think twice before using "like a girl" as an insult.
MLB Commissioner Emeritus Allan H. (Bud) and Suzanne L. (Sue) Selig
Bud and Sue Selig have helped transform how leagues and sport gives back. At the urging of the Seligs, MLB granted the $10 million founding donation that launched Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) in 2008. Since then, the Seligs have helped raise tens of millions of dollars for groundbreaking cancer research through SU2C's Innovative Research Grant, the first of which was named in their honor, and they are responsible for MLB's continued support for cancer research. The Seligs also paved the way for professional sports to become more sustainable, with Bud being called "the single most influential environmental advocate in the history of sports" by the Green Sports Alliance. Under his watch, MLB was the first league to distribute environmental advice and measurement tools to all stadium operators. It was the first league to use public service announcements to educate fans about environmental stewardship and to green its All-Star Game and league championships. Selig received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which aids academically distinguished minority students, and the Chairman's Award from Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Selig is a major supporter of his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as Marquette University.
Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll
Pete Carroll is committed to helping people be the best they can be on and off the field. Carroll works to identify what is unique about each person, understand and help them create a vision for what they want to be and then keep them connected to that vision. It is in this approach that has led to life-changing impact. Coach Carroll incorporated this philosophy to help transform communities and make them better places to live through his violence prevention efforts via A Better LA and A Better Seattle. He was instrumental to bring Free The Children's We Act & We Day to the U.S. and Seattle in 2013. Annually, students earn their tickets to We Day by completing one local and one global action on any issue of their choice. This program is unique because it provides youth from all types of backgrounds a platform to become agents of change and leaders regardless of their circumstances.
You Can Play
The You Can Play Project is working to change the sometimes homophobic culture of locker rooms and sports venues with a message that athletes should be judged on athletic skill and ability, not sexual orientation or other discriminatory factors. Inspired by the late Brendan Burke, an openly gay hockey player at Miami University and son of Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke, the organization is spreading a message of tolerance, inclusion and equality. Today, You Can Play has been represented in video messages by athletes from every professional sports league in North America, all saying they would support a gay teammate who would contribute to a team's success.