By Stacy M. Brown
In the wake of the unprecedented novel coronavirus pandemic, the National Football League (NFL) — perhaps more than any other sports league and many other major corporations — has strived to rapidly respond to needs in local communities throughout the nation.
In an interview with NNPA Newswire, Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said, “The commissioner and all of us remain completely aware of the reality of what’s going on.” Commissioner Roger Goodell, and others at league headquarters, are conscious and respectful of how the virus is affecting our nation and the entire globe.
The NFL’s Draft-A-Thon, a fundraising effort that takes place simultaneously with the NFL Draft on April 23, will allocate funds to six national charities and their local chapters. The charities include: The American Red Cross, the CDC Foundation, Feeding America, Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army and United Way.
In addition to the Draft-A-Thon, the NFL, along with its teams and players, have come together to support communities throughout the nation as everyone attempts to tackle the issues arising from the COVID-19 disaster.
“The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) encourages all professional sports to follow the extraordinary lead of the NFL in their national response to the devastating impact of COVID-19 across America.,” emphasized Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., President and CEO of the NNPA. “In particular, African Americans have the highest number of fatalities from COVID-19. The NNPA appreciates the responsive leadership of the NFL as this pandemic continues to spread and disproportionately impact our families and communities.”
Here’s a snapshot of what the NFL and its teams and players have done thus far:
More than 70 Philadelphia Eagles employees and their families, including coach Doug Pederson and his wife Jeannie, participated in a community blood drive at Lincoln Financial Field in response to the dip in blood donations across the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter recently gave about $20,000 to help coronavirus patients. Hunter’s grandmother, Joy Gayle, works as a nurse at a hospital in New York. He has been getting regular reports from her about how “crazy” things are at the hospital, including a shortage of supplies.
Cleveland Browns team seamstress Becky Zielinski has led a service effort in collaboration with Mask Making Miracles, who are a local group of volunteer seamstresses who wanted to help during this crisis. Together, Becky and Mask Making Miracles have helped produce 2,678 masks. Browns’ staff also provided support from their homes by cutting fabric for the Mask Making Miracles group. The masks were recently donated to University Hospitals (UH) medical professionals. UH is currently collecting masks from several community groups, and after collecting 100,000 masks, they will donate all remaining masks to local nursing homes and others in need.
Don Shula and three former Miami Dolphins players who, like their coach, went into the restaurant business, are teaming up to provide free meals during the coronavirus crisis to first responders, healthcare workers, and needy families in South Florida. The food relief program, funded by a $250,000 grant from Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross through the Miami Dolphins Foundation, will also keep restaurant workers employed.
Dairy MAX and the New Orleans Saints in partnership with GENYOUth, will contribute $50,000 to the COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund to support local schools with the purchase of resources needed for meal distribution and delivery, as well as protective gear for sanitation and safety. Each school can receive up to $3,000 in grant funds, administered by GENYOUth. The application and additional information can be found at http://www.dairymax.org.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are purchasing 45,000 Jaguars-branded protective masks for distribution later this month throughout the Jacksonville area. Sourced through a Jacksonville company, the masks will be distributed by the Jaguars to local companies still operating and interacting with the public. Also, masks will be distributed to not-for-profit groups whose mission is currently focused on local COVID-19 efforts.
NFL team doctors joined the frontlines in fighting COVID-19. For health professionals, fighting this surging pandemic has become an all-hands-on-deck call. This is why, in March, a few days after free agency opened, the NFL Physicians Society decided to suspend all football-related medical visits, including physicals for free agents and draft prospects. Instead, they are volunteering their time and expertise to support the fight at their local area hospitals.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ wide receiver Mike Evans and his Mike Evans Family Foundation have pledged a total of $100,000 for COVID-19 relief efforts, with $50,000 going to the United Way Suncoast in support of efforts in the Tampa Bay region. The Foundation will also donate another $50,000 to Evans’ hometown of Galveston, Texas, to further aid in COVID-19 relief efforts there.
In response to hunger relief needs related to the COVOID-19 health emergency, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay issued a million-dollar challenge to Colts Nation: as soon as $200,000 was raised locally for relief boxes from Gleaners Food Bank, Irsay would unlock a $1 million gift on top of that for his fellow Hoosier neighbors.
“I am so proud of our community and so proud to call Indianapolis home because Hoosiers come together, whether in times of celebration or in times of great need. Today is no different,” Irsay said. “Everyone is being affected in some way by these challenging times, but many of our friends and neighbors are being hit particularly hard. But in our usual Indianapolis way, people are coming together and reaching out to help.
“That’s why I challenged those who could afford to give to help make a difference in these upcoming days and weeks,” Irsay continued. “I send my deepest thanks to everyone who helped push us past $200,000 in donations to Gleaners to help feed those in immediate need, and I am pleased to add more than $1 million to that total.”
Click here to see the many other ways the NFL family is responding to COVID-19.