Community service and charity has the opportunity to create a positive, altruistic image for an individual or a business. Donating your own time to help others in need shows public-spirited character, demonstrates a willingness to change the community for the better, and allows an individual or business to give back to benefit the community. Sports organizations, in particular, strive to create this reputation and offer many different programs and groups catered to service. The NFL and NBA, two of the most popular sports in the United States, offer crowds of service opportunities and have numerous athletes who take the time to make the community a better place.
The NFL understands that contact football can be a dangerous sport and have been working with many different organizations to help raise awareness for player safety. One such organization is the NFL Player Care Foundation (PCF), an independent organization dedicated to helping retired players improve their quality of life. PCF addresses all aspects of life by providing programs and assistance with medical, emotional, financial, and social and community issues. Along with safety, the NFL also works with youth NFL groups including Pass, Punt, and Kick, NFL Flag Leagues, and USA Youth Football to teach the proper fundamentals of the game and encourages all young players to have fun playing in a competitive sports setting. The NFL has also set up NFL Play 60, which motivates children and teens to be active and play outside for at least 60 minutes per day. The NFL holds themselves to a high social responsibility for many issues as well: the NFL has teamed up to promote breast cancer awareness, dangers of driving under the influence, salute to service, and eco-friendly environmental acknowledgement.
One such player that embodies the service image of the NFL is Dallas Cowboy’s Tight End Jason Witten. Witten was the recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2012, which awards an NFL player for their outstanding levels of involvement with the community. Not only has he stayed true to the Cowboys as a premier tight end for more than a decade, attended more than seven Pro Bowls, and has held the team record for most receptions, but he has launched a charity foundation, battles domestic violence through funded programs, has created a learning center program for struggling youth, has been a spokesperson for youth fitness, and has also hosted football camps for the past decade for young athletes. Among all these community honors and awards, the man stays humble, doesn’t complain, is respectful in all interviews, and is all around a genuine and selfless individual. He puts others before himself; he plays the game of football with lots of heart, and is a respectful and likeable person.
In the NBA, the league has set up global outreach initiative that aims to address social issues. This season, in fact, as part of the 10th anniversary of its creation, NBA Cares is renewing its commitment to communities around the world by inspiring play and teaching basketball’s values to more than 15 million youth, providing an additional 3 million hours of service to others, and leaving a lasting legacy in communities by building 1,000 more safe places to live, learn or play by 2025. NBA Cares works with youth-serving programs that support education, family development, and health, including: Special Olympics, YMCA of the USA, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, UNICEF, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Share Our Strength and GLSEN. Since 2005 when NBA Cares was launched, the league and teams have raised more than $260 million for charity, provided more than 3.3 million hours of hands-on service, and built more than 970 places where kids and families can live, learn or play in communities around the world.
Russell Westbrook, point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, is one such service role model in the NBA who has set up the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation to inspire kids around the world and help teach them to never give up. This organization is dedicated to supporting community based education and family service programs while encouraging youth to believe in themselves. During the 2014-15 season, Westbrook along with his organization opened new reading centers called “Russell’s Reading Room” in three Oklahoma City public schools, providing 1,200 new books. Westbrook also presented a local Oklahoma City single mother of two children with the new Kia car he won as the 2015 All-Star Game MVP.
These organizations are set up to inspire individuals to create new experiences and develop new skills through volunteerism. Community service and charity has the power to give life satisfaction, create special relationships with the individuals within the community, and allows an individual to directly impact the status of a community. The NFL and NBA strive to create this noble and generous environment through the many community partners they sponsor. These sports organizations use the media attention to try and make the world a better place by inspiring viewers to get involved and to do their part in helping their local communities.
I encourage all who serve to reflect on why service is important to strengthening an individual’s foundation, but also to see how it can help shape a positive image for an individual or an organization. The Richter’s Center Ambassador’s mission is to create a positive perception of community service to encourage others to serve and to highlight the goodness that students and organizations achieve through helping others around the community.
How do you perceive community service?