Article written by James Anderson - Guest Poster Sportmentary Online Sports Talk
Athletes are notorious for their strength, courage, build, and endurance. Character is hardly analyzed in athletics, and when it is, the nature of it is almost always negative. The scandals involving Michael Vic or OJ Simpson caused a media frenzy that received coverage for years. However, even if they don’t make the tabloids, there are just as many all-star athletes who have made positive contributions to the world outside the locker room and off the field.
Dikembe Mutombo, who retired in 2009 from the Houston Rockets of the NBA, is one of few athletes known equally for his humanitarian efforts as well as for his talent on the basketball court. Mutombo has worked since 1997 to improve living conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and he’s donated $15 million dollars to open a much needed hospital in his hometown of Kanash. He’s also volunteered in Africa with goals of improving the infrastructure and teaching the residents about basketball. For his philanthropy, Mutombo has received many awards including the J Kennedy Citizenship Award as well as the President’s Service Award.
Some people might not consider Lance Armstrong an all-star athlete anymore due his recent bout with steroid allegations. However, even if the seven-time Tour de France champion/cancer survivor did get all his titles stripped from him, his good citizen title is here to stay. He founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation (currently known as the Livestrong Foundation) in 1997 to help those struggling with cancer as well as to fund cancer research. He’s donated millions of dollars to the charity himself, and although he stepped down from the foundation after his steroid scandal, the good that came out of his organization secures him a spot on this list.
The 7’1” former NBA athlete is a giant with a huge heart to match. When Hurricane Katrina hit, O’Neal and his wife personally volunteered to collect medical items and donations to help the victims, and aside from spending days helping out, the O’Neals arranged to have close to 400 apartments rented for the storm’s refuges. O’Neal has been involved with the Boys and Girls Club throughout the years, and he’s hosted multiple charitable golf tournaments.
Lance Briggs, the NFL linebacker for the Chicago Bears, showed the world a softer side when he became a spokesperson for PETA. In his PSA, Briggs spoke out about animal abuse and urged the world to be aware of the dangers of leaving pets outside during cold temperatures.
Steve Smith, the NFL’s wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers, surprised many of his fans in the fall of 2012 when he, along with other volunteers, washed the feet of over 400 homeless people in Clearwater, Florida. Afterwards, the group donated brand new shoes and socks to the homeless. Smith has teamed up with Samaritan’s Feet, a charity designed to help those in need of footwear, to fulfill his goal of donating 500,000 pairs of shoes to the needy. Smith stated he plans to make aiding the homeless his mission after retirement.
Tim Tebow, NFL quarter back for the New York Jets, started the Tim Tebow Foundation in 2010. The foundation was set up to provide hope to those going through dark times. Currently, the foundation is building a children’s hospital in the Philippines, the country where Tebow was born. The hospital will focus on orthopedics as well as correcting deformities through corrective surgery.
One of the most engrossing aspects of sports is watching the animal-like nature of competition, and some of the best athletes can be extremely ruthless when they are out on the court or field. However, it’s refreshing and comforting to see that many athletes have a more humanitarian approach to life when they are not performing.
James Anderson is lifelong sports fan and outdoor lover. He spends the warmer months camping, hunting, and writing. He currently writes about locker room storage for www.schoollockers.com.