The inaugural Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards, presented by ESPN and PlayStation®, will celebrate and honor athletes, teams, nonprofits and members of the sports industry for using sport to serve communities and make a positive impact on society, it was announced by John Skipper, President, ESPN. The event, which will take place Tuesday, July 14 at the Conga Room at L.A. Live, will be the first of its kind, bringing together the leagues and sporting community to pay tribute to the collective good of sports.
Multiple sports-related leagues and/or governing bodies - including MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL, USOC, USTA, WNBA, WWE and the Women's Sports Foundation - have nominated athletes, teams and community members that are using the power of sports to transform lives and uplift communities. Highlights of the evening will be featured during a 30-minute special on ESPN, July 23 at 8:30 p.m. ET.
During the event, which will be hosted by Laila Ali, winners will be announced from among the finalists for two major award categories - Sports Humanitarian of the Year and Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year. Additionally, the event will celebrate four inaugural "Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award" (ESPN + inspire) winners, recognized for taking risks and using innovation to help the disadvantaged.
"Through their selflessness and compassion, the Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award honorees are improving lives of many around the world," Skipper said. "The awards pay tribute to some incredible individuals and organizations and the extraordinary impact of their efforts on society."
As part of the PlayStation Heroes initiative, PlayStation is the presenting sponsor of the Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards, which will benefit the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund at The V Foundation - a fund that encourages cutting-edge research for minority populations suffering from cancer.
An independent panel of judges selected the finalists, including, Tracy Hoover, CEO of Points of Light, Sharon Roerty, Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Sab Singh, Founder of Sports Doing Good and professor at Farmingdale State College, and Caryl Stern, CEO of the US Fund for UNICEF.
"Humanitarianism is a central narrative of sport - as athletes aspire towards greatness, their ability to make a mark on society is as important as their athletic accomplishments," said Stern. "The Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards give rise to the increasingly important role that sports can play in society, and how the sports community can work together to build and inspire strong communities."
Below is information on each of the awards:
SPORTS HUMANITARIAN OF THE YEAR
The Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award is given to an athlete whose continuous, demonstrated leadership has created a positive impact on their community through sports. The honoree will receive a $75,000 grant (and $25,000 grant for each of the three finalists) from ESPN's Corporate Citizenship department to advance the impact of the charity related to the award-winning humanitarian efforts.
Finalists (winner to be announced at awards ceremony July 14):
Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers (NFL): Inspired by his own humble beginnings, Boldin is a passionate advocate for underprivileged youth and works to help them to overcome their limitations by expanding educational and life opportunities. Through his foundation, he provides a network of support with mentoring and after-school programs, scholarships, and annual summer enrichment programs - all of which are creating tangible impacts in the lives of children in Baltimore, South Florida and San Francisco. Becoming an Oxfam Ambassador on his own accord, Boldin also has testified before Congress to strengthen human rights protections for communities impacted by the oil and mining industries in Africa. In 2014, Boldin and his wife, Dionne, made a $1 million pledge to help youth in need by providing 4-year college scholarships to four deserving high school graduates annually.
Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever (WNBA): Growing up with a hearing impairment, Catchings was no stranger to being bullied, but she used her disability as inspiration and fuel to do her best in the classroom and on the court. Today, she teaches young girls about embracing their differences, building their self-esteem and overcoming obstacles. Through her Catch the Stars Foundation, she promotes fitness, literacy and mentoring to youth in Indianapolis. Catchings has served on the U.S. Department of State's Council to Empower Women and Girls Through Sports and has supported countless programs in the community through her unwavering volunteer efforts and financial support.
John Cena (WWE): WWE Superstar John Cena's popular catchphrase "Never Give Up" is also a real-life mantra that he uses to inspire those battling life-threatening illnesses. For more than a decade, Cena has been a force in granting the wishes of children in partnership with Make-A-Wish. As the most requested wish granter of all-time, he has granted nearly 500 wishes for children around the world. Additionally, Cena is also a passionate advocate in the fight against breast cancer, helping to spread the word about the importance of early detection. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers (NHL): As founder of the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation and an ambassador for the Garden of Dreams Foundation, Lundqvist has seized the opportunity to positively impact the lives of children most in need through education and health services. He's touched the lives of thousands of children and families in New York City, the Dominican Republic and Sweden with both personal and financial support. He's also providing a platform to the next generation of community leaders, by selecting a group of young adults to complete community service projects and volunteer work, as part of his Young Ambassadors Program.
SPORTS HUMANITARIAN TEAM OF THE YEAR
The Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year represents a sports team (and their community relations department or foundation) that demonstrates how teamwork between athletes and their team's community relations or foundations can create a significant impact on a community or cause. The winner will receive a $75,000 grant (and $25,000 grant for each of the three finalists) from ESPN to the qualified charity related to the award-winning humanitarian efforts.
Finalists (winners to be announced at awards ceremony July 14):
Chicago Bulls (NBA): The Chicago Bulls' work in the community is a collaborative effort among the team's players, fans, corporate partners, community partners, and front office staff. Community is a fundamental part of the team's business operations and the Bulls feel a responsibility to give back to the city and people who give so much to them. Last year, the Bulls organized over 100 community events focused on youth education, health and wellness, violence prevention, and the military with more than 30,000 people impacted. The team's Season of Giving alone, reached 16,000 people in the Chicago community, with 1,000 gifts and 2,200 meals provided to families in need. Additionally, the Bulls distributed $2.5 million in cash and in-kind donations in support of local organizations.
Portland Timbers (MLS): Stand Together, the club's community outreach platform, harnesses the power of sport to improve the lives of children and families in the Portland metro area through targeted programs, deep partnerships and philanthropic giving. Stand Together focuses on youth activity, education and the environment, with an emphasis on cultural diversity and access for all to play. Since the club's inaugural MLS season in 2011, the Timbers have given more than $2.4 million in cash and in-kind donations, including their philanthropic work through the Portland Timbers Community Fund, the club's field-grants program, and various experiential and charitable activities. The club's signature Stand Together Week annually benefits 30+ different nonprofits throughout the greater Portland metro area. Since 2012, Stand Together Week has generated over 7,000 volunteer hours by 2,000 volunteers on more than 100 projects.
San Francisco 49ers (NFL): At the heart of the 49ers philanthropic efforts is their deep commitment to the San Francisco 49ers Academy, a middle school for low-income students in the highly challenged city of East Palo Alto. The team has supported the Academy from top to bottom with grants; player, alumni, ownership and staff involvement; mentorships; and facility enhancement. Inclusive of the contributions to the 49ers Academy, since 1992, the Foundation has donated $30.6 million to support nonprofits, contributing $4.6 million in 2014, including a $1 million grant to launch the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute to enable motivated and talented young scholars to reach their full potential.
WWE Community Relations: WWE leverages the power of its brand and platforms to help address important social issues worldwide, and through its partnerships, they support programs and initiatives that positively impact children and families around the world. WWE has granted more than 6,000 wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions through Make-A-Wish, and launched an anti-bullying program, Be a STAR, to encourage young people to treat each other with tolerance and respect through education and grassroots initiatives. More than 100,000 kids from all 50 U.S. states and 100 countries have taken the pledge to end bullying through the program. WWE is also a strong advocate for athletes with intellectual disabilities and breast cancer awareness through their work with Special Olympics and Susan G. Komen respectively, and they are staunch supporters of the U.S. military through their annual Tribute to the Troops celebration and partnership with Hire Heroes USA to help returning vets transition to the civilian workforce.
STUART SCOTT ENSPIRE AWARD HONOREES
In honor of former ESPN commentator Stuart Scott's indomitable spirit, the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award (ESPN + inspire) celebrates and honors any organization or person who has used the power of sport by taking risk and using an innovative approach to aid the disadvantaged, save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain and protect human dignity. The honorees will each receive a $25,000 grant from ESPN to the qualified charity related to the award-winning humanitarian efforts.
Honorees (to be recognized at awards ceremony July 14):
"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.