Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Michael Vick: Humanitarian?

Ok, for my final (class) post, let's see if we can drum up a little discussion around a particularly controversial athlete; one who we've discussed from a public relations standpoint on multiple occasions.

Michael Vick.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Inspire. Empower. Commit.

Most professional athletes have done humanitarian work at some stage in their career. Their efforts have been largely successful, but it's important to remember that this is just the work of one person, who already lives a busy life. There is a limit to the extent of a single athlete's humanitarian abilities.

But what if you combine some of the greatest sports personalities in the world to form a solitary not-for-profit organization? How much more effective can the efforts of a group be over the work of an individual? As is often the case, there is strength in numbers, which is why Athletes for Hope has been so successful. Andre Agassi emphasizes this point in the video below.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Because being the most famous hockey dad wasn't enough...

When one hears the last name 'Gretzky,' they obviously most frequently associate it with The Great One, Wayne, arguably the greatest player in the history of the game. And while Wayne Gretzky has undoubtedly done his fair share of humanitarian goodwill, his father Walter, has, in this case, surpassed the accomplishments of his famous son.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Special Blessing"

One of the major news items over the past month has been the civil unrest in Africa; the president of Egypt was forced to resign amid protests and Libya is currently entrenched in chaotic revolution that will likely result in major changes. These significant events made me think of a particular sports humanitarian story of an individual worth remembering.

Manute Bol always stood out in a crowd. Being 7 feet, 7 inches tall has that effect. Bol, whose first name translates to "special blessing," was born in Sudan to a 6-foot-8 father and 6-foot-10 mother. Allegedly, his grandfather was 7-foot-10. I guess he was destined to be tall...

Monday, February 14, 2011


The Toronto sports media market is, for lack of a better word, relentless. To be an athlete in the city is to be faced with ongoing scrutiny and criticism and virtually every athlete, regardless of their accomplishments on the field, has had their name mentioned in a negative light at some point during their career. Except, perhaps, for one.

Michael "Pinball" Clemons is undoubtedly one of the most popular athletes in Canadian sports history; an incredible talent with an infectious personality and relentless desire to help others. A terrifically exciting player with the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League, Pinball excited a generation of Toronto football fans with his play, winning three Grey Cups from 1991-1997 and the league's Most Outstanding Player award in 1990. Have a quick look at the video below and you'll quickly see how Pinball acquired his nickname. Even if you're not a sports fan, you can't help but be impressed with his energy.
But all of Pinball's accomplishments on the football field pale in comparison to what he has done since his retirement. Since its inception in 2007, the Michael "Pinball" Clemons Foundation has quickly become one of the most generous, well-known and successful charities in Toronto. Its focus on improving the lives of underprivileged youths, coupled with Pinball's magnetic personality, has helped to raise millions of dollars for those in need, while teaming with other local initiatives such as Habitat for Humanity and Free the Children. Schools and homes have been built for those less fortunate, and scholarship funds have been created to help educate and sponsor youths. Pinball has been successful as a motivational speaker (see below after the 'jump') and is widely recognized as the gold standard for which other athletes aspire to equal in terms of humanitarian generosity.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A "Shoe In" for good humanitarianism

So I know that my original intent was to provide more current stories of sports humanitarianism, but a couple of days ago, I remembered this story that I thought would make a perfect addition to Beyond the Boxscores.

At his best, Stephon Marbury was an two-time all-star point guard in the NBA. At his worst, he clashed with players and coaches, along with a few run-ins with the law. Stephon Marbury is not perfect. But despite his transgressions, one incredible act of humanitarianism by Marbury has left a lasting impression with thousands of underprivileged youths in the United States.

Marbury grew up in poverty in Coney Island, NY, one of seven children. Long on basketball talent, but short on money, Marbury's family couldn't afford to buy him the expensive shoes that were in such high demand at the time. Other kids and their families growing up in Brooklyn were faced with similar challenges when a $200 pair of basketball shoes represented a month's worth of groceries.

Despite the challenges Marbury faced, he became one of the most highly-recruited high school players in the country and received a scholarship to play at Georgia Tech. From there, Marbury went on to the NBA where he enjoyed a successful career. But despite all his successes on the hardcourt, Marbury had a burning desire to provide opportunities for underprivileged basketball-loving youths, as he once was. Enter the Starbury line of shoes (and eventually clothing, too). Marbury successfully developed an inexpensive, yet quality line of basketball shoes that provided young basketball players an opportunity to wear the footwear that they coveted so dearly. The cost: $14.98. The video below shows Marbury introducing his shoe line on Good Morning America.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"You work with Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas?!"

As per the title of this post, it's safe to say the Fergie Jenkins is far from being one of the more well-known Canadian celebrities. Upon telling someone recently that one of my volunteer responsibilities was 'taking Fergie to the airport,' I received the title's response. In actuality though, Fergie Jenkins is the most successful Canadian in the history of professional baseball -- the only Canadian in the Hall of Fame, a recipient of the Order of Canada and one of only 14 black pitchers of all-time to win more than 20 games in a single season, an accomplishment that has him known as one of The Black Aces. So, what does Fergie do that makes him such a great humanitarian?

The objective of The Fergie Jenkins Foundation is essentially to sell sports memorabilia and donate the funds raised to charities in North America. While working for his Foundation, one of my tasks is to maintain a list of active charities that we make donations to -- the list is incredibly long and so indicative of Fergie's generosity. He works countless charity events throughout the course of the year and is currently taking part in a cross-country tour, promoting Black History Month and his commemoration on a Canadian stamp.