As we all know, the NBA Finals are in full gear right now. The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs are locked in a classic series, as both teams battle to win another NBA Championship. While the whole world is focused on the play of the superstars on the court, I want to focus on some of the things one player, Dwyane Wade, is doing off the court to make a difference in communities across America.
Every year the NBA gives out the Community Assist Award. The award honors the NBA player who best reflects the passion that the league and its players have for giving back to their communities. Dwyane Wade took home award for the 2012-2013 season, in recognition of his outstanding efforts in the community and his ongoing charitable work. Wade’s passion is felt throughout the whole entire NBA. Players, coaches, and owners are inspired by Dwyane’s heartfelt efforts to make a difference in the lives of kids all over the nation.
In 2003, Wade founded the Wade’s World Foundation. The foundation is known for its support with literacy, health, and fatherhood primarily in less fortunate communities around the Chicago, Milwaukee, and South Florida areas. Wade’s vision to help others began at the age of 7. When normal kids were worried about toys, and having fun, Wade was concerned about the health of his surrounding communities.
Wade was inspired by news articles that featured celebrities visiting schools to read stories and offer words of encouragement to students. Wade wanted to be that person who brought smiles to those kids faces. Wade vowed that if he ever become successful, he would become a positive figure for kids to look up to. After years of hard work, dedication, and practice, Wade is that person that kids look up to.
In December of 2008, a Florida woman’s nephew accidentally burned down the family home. Wade heard of the incident and reached out to the family by purchasing them a new home, including furniture, and clothing. In September of 2009, Wade donated $25,000 to keep a Robbins, Illinois public library from shutting down.
Wade deemed the contribution as “small” and mentioned that he was not always able to help others, instead he was the one who needed the help then. Now that he had the opportunity to make a difference, he would always be there to lend a hand to those in need.
In 2010, Wade’s biggest contribution came when he joined former teammate, Alonzo Mourning’s efforts to raise money for the victims of the destructive earthquake in Haiti. In just a few days, over $800,000 was raised with the help of fellow athletes and friends.
No matter what happens in the NBA Finals, whether Wade wins another championship or not, he will still be a role model, and leader for kids all over the world. No championship ring can compare to the feeling of being there for people who need it the most. For Dwyane, basketball will always come second to helping people.
Wade knows what it’s like to not have anyone to look up to. He also knows the feeling of not being able to eat some nights, and he’ll go to extreme measures to keep as many kids as he can from becoming familiar with some of things he became familiar with as a child. Wade’s mission is far from over, but he’s already made a big difference in the lives of hundreds of families.
Wade’s World Foundation Website – http://www.wadesworldfoundation.org/
Who Listens When You Lack Power and Privilege?
How do we differentiate who we are from what we are? Do titles really define who we are or what we think about people? Do we not care about who they are as a person; their morals, values, and stances?
We are asked as children what we want to be when we grow up, which is often answered by a title – a police officer, teacher, a professional athlete. We don’t get asked who we want to be, or what we want to be known for.
We often assign respect and obedience to certain titles without thinking the expectations we have of someone who holds it. Some may exceed expectations, and others may not be close to meeting them. But, what do we do when we learn who they are as a person and not the title they hold?
A professional football player kneeled during the national anthem because police officers were not meeting the expectations society has relayed on them. But rather than join his efforts in holding them accountable for their deadly actions, he lost his job for getting involved in something that isn’t part of his job description.
Collin Kaepernick’s job is to be a quarterback and not protest injustices which is what some of his critics say. He showed us who he is as a person, what he stands for, and what he believes in. In return, he is villainized and no longer is he considered a good football player, but has been rebranded as a troublemaker. Is that fair?
Power and privilege are two concepts that most people strive to obtain, but some may never achieve it. These two things are primarily held in the hands of white men in America. Minorities lack the social status to have powerful messages heard and understood by White America which often leads to relying on our white counterparts to understand our situation in order for something to get done.
Collin Kaepernick had a platform at his disposal which was the NFL. He used his stage in hopes of giving a voice to an issue troubling his community because this was something “white America” isn’t experiencing, nor could they understand the lived fear people of color have of the police.
Because this was something the majority did not understand, Kaepernick’s behavior was too radical for unaffected to be willing to listen and pay attention to the real issue, police brutality. Kneeling during the flag and national anthem was not about disrespecting the flag or national anthem. His kneeling was to bring attention to an epidemic faced by a particular group of Americans.
When we often hold positions of power, we expect others to listen to us and conform to our desires. When something is not presented how we like it, we are less likely to value that person and what they believe.
One of the core values of the social work profession is the dignity and worth of the person. Acknowledging the reality that not everyone will be affected the same. The willingness to listen to others when they’re trying to tell their story can go as far as saving someone’s life.
If the reasoning for Kaepernick’s kneeling had been met with empathy when he shared why he was kneeling, the issue of police brutality would have remained the center of the issue instead of NFL players being called “sons of bitches” by the President of the United States because he doesn’t like them kneeling.
If the people in power, the NFL stakeholders, the President of the United States, and other officials who can hold law enforcement accountable, cared as much about issues like police brutality as they did about football players kneeling, American lives could literally be saved.
Unfortunately, when minorities with no standing and power in America try to bring awareness to social issues where minorities are also the victims, no one seems willing to listen or do anything about it.
Colin Kaepernick and How Self Care Must Go Pro
For years, permanently injured players have been left to figure out how they will financially support their families and how they will carry on with their lives after committing years to football. Currently, the NFL is settling numerous lawsuits from former players who claim that their disabilities resulted from injuries on the field. But that’s not the only controversy stirring in the NFL.
In Fall of 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem. At the time, many believed the media would quickly move on to another more trendy story. Afterall, he wasn’t chanting or picketing. He was simply kneeling. But as weeks passed, white anger slowly unveiled itself, and patriotism took the main stage. Critics saw Kaepernick’s quiet gesture as a radical protest. Yet, he still knelt game after game.
Kaepernick proved his physical ability early in his professional career by leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013. At that time the public didn’t know that Kaepernick had a metal rod placed in his left leg prior to his rookie year. Still, he attended and did well in practices. But in 2015, he injured his left shoulder and would later report injuries to his thumb and knee.
Working with such disabilities would prove challenging to most people, particularly for professional athletes who are required to demonstrate physical grit day after day. When Kaepernick’s scoring record took a hit, questions arose as to whether he was worth his contract. But Kaepernick saw himself as more than just damaged goods. He had something else to offer: a perspective on the value of black lives in America.
By kneeling, Kaepernick demonstrated ownership of his body, a black body that has been endangered for a time that is too long to measure. That is a radical act of self-care. The concept of self-care, for a long time, was viewed as a luxury accessible to an elite few. And, self-care is publicly declaring that your life matters beyond what your performance on the football field.
In a recent interview, Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy said he thinks that Kaepernick was released because he’s not a great player, not because he didn’t stand for the anthem. He added that from the perspective of a team owner, Kaepernick isn’t worth the distraction if he can’t play well. However, star quarterbacks Aaron Rogers and Cam Newton came out in support of Kaepernick. Both stated he should be starting in the NFL, but he isn’t due to his protest of the national anthem.
I’d argue that even when athletes play well, there is a general discomfort with them expressing resistance to racism. They usually are told to stick to the game, proving once again that a working, non-resistant black body is most favorable (and profitable) in this society.
The NFL has a longstanding history of utilizing bodies for financial gain, in particular, black bodies. It is a marketplace for bodies. Bodies that can be negotiated and sold and traded in the name of increasing revenue. I hear sports fans say often that certain teams don’t win because the owners ‘don’t want to spend the money’. However, Kaepernick was recently released from his contract, something for which he seemed prepared.
According to the New York Times, NFL players are becoming permanently disabled after suffering head traumas. Those injuries have caused concussions, dementia, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Now, some players’ wives have created at least one space, in the form of a private Facebook group, where they share their experiences and gain strength from each other as they become caregivers and advocates for men who once were larger than life. I believe that this generation of athletes will begin to demand more than money for play. They will demand the right to safety and self-care, and they will begin to plan for their legacies and quality of life off the field.
Athletes are human and imperfect. For many, they are heroes which must be a compliment, but it must also be a lot of pressure. This next generation of athletes will need to employ a high degree of self-care if they want to have a productive career and higher quality life after retirement.
Athletes inspire us because of their consistency and their unmatched desire to win. I’ve never met an athlete who thought second place was good enough. They want to be the best. Their drive is a metaphor for how many of us want to live our best lives.
Super Bowl Champ Roland Williams Mentors Kids to Eat More Veggies on Meatless Monday
NEW YORK — For Super Bowl champ Roland Williams aka Big Ro (Super Bowl XXXIV champ St. Louis Rams over Tennessee Titans in 2000), inspiring disadvantaged children to move from fast food to plant food is a labor of love. Roland, a graduate of Syracuse University, founded The Champion Academy, an innovative mentoring program for at-risk middle and high school students in greater Rochester, NY. Roland is an advocate for Meatless Monday.
Meatless Monday encourages the public to cut back on meat consumption one day a week to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer, and lessen the environmental impact of meat production on climate change, water and land use.
The campaign is founded on research that demonstrates Monday is the day we are most primed to start and sustain a healthy new behavior. Since its launch 13 years ago, Meatless Monday has become an international movement in more than 40 countries with support from governments, schools, celebrities, restaurants, and local and global organizations around the world.
Roland wrote this open letter to encourage everyone to be a team player after Super Bowl Sunday by participating in Meatless Monday, a global movement to find innovative ways to make meatless and vegetarian dishes part of our everyday culture, customs and cuisine.
“Super Monday”: The New Best Way to Celebrate The Big Game
By Roland Williams, NFL Super Bowl Champion
As we draw one day closer to Super Bowl LI, I can’t help but to smile.
This past NFL season has been such a joy to watch. All the unexpected twists and turns. The re-emergence of the Cowboys and Raiders. The high-powered Falcon offense. The grit and determination of the Patriots. I even enjoyed watching the massive disappointments of 2016. As I type this letter, I’m still scratching my head about the Cardinals, Bengals, Broncos and Panthers this season.
But now, we are on to the main event.
The entire NFL season comes down to two teams. As a true fan of football, it doesn’t even matter that I have no vested interest in either team winning this year. Yep, it doesn’t get any better than this. I can’t wait to enjoy the entire day from the pregame to post-game confetti.
But this year, when the game is over and I’ve seen my fair share of post-game coverage, I am asking that you join me in two of the biggest games of them all; your health and our environment.
On Monday after the big game, be a team player by participating in Meatless Monday, a global movement to find innovative ways to make meatless and vegetarian dishes part of our everyday culture, customs and cuisine. For those unaware, it has been scientifically proven that skipping meat at least one day a week is beneficial for our health and the environment.
This past year, I’ve been doing it weekly with my three young sons and they love it! Then a few months ago, I went crazy. I joined forces with Celebrity Chef Danny Boome and local artist Michelle Cardulla and incorporated Meatless Monday into my favorite charity, http://www.ChampionAcademyRoc.org.
I’m telling you, this is a movement that deserves your attention. If you still need a few reasons why you should add this into your life, take a look at http://www.MeatlessMonday.com. You can thank me later.
Enjoy the game!
NFL Super Bowl Champion
Meatless Monday Supporter
Meatless Monday is a nonprofit public health initiative founded by Sid Lerner, chairman of The Monday Campaigns. The initiative is in association with the Lerner Centers for Public Health Promotion at Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Syracuse universities.
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