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Sports at the Holidays: Cheering the Season of Giving


By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek

November 30, 2012

The holidays are a time when some sports—most notably the NFL, college football, and the NBA—capitalize on families gathered round a TV to promote themselves and grow their fan bases. The holidays are also a time when charities capitalize on the goodwill of people to grow their donor bases.

Bringing this Polar Express train of thought full circle, of course, is that the holidays are also a time when sports teams, leagues, and athletes draw the most attention to their year-round charitable activities—thus engendering even more good will from fans, and more donations to their chosen causes.

Here’s a snapshot of the goodwill the sports industry spreads throughout all the seasons:

As Tiger Woods’ annual World Challenge golf tournament benefiting his Tiger Woods Foundation plays out this weekend in Thousand Oaks, CA, Golf 20/20, the collaboration representing all segments of the U.S. golf industry, announces that golf’s combined charitable contribution in 2011 was $3.9 billion.
“Regardless of the economic climate, golf is a key driver of charitable giving in the U.S.,” notes Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation, administrator of Golf 20/20. “As a major focus of the golf industry, working with organizers of philanthropic events helps improve millions of lives.” Beneficiaries include health, youth, education, environmental, and cultural groups locally to nationally.

On Monday, March of Dimes 29th annual Sports Luncheon in New York raised a record $850,000, according to SportsBusiness Journal. Honorees included beach volleyball Olympic Gold Medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, who shared Sportswoman of the Year honors, MLB Network President and CEO Tony Petitti, and New York Road Runners CEO Mary Wittenberg.

While Wittenberg’s honor may come as a surprise, given that her primary event, the ING New York Marathon, was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy, Harrie Bakst of Carnegie Sports & Entertainment noted on Bloomberg TV “Sportfolio” that the 2012 marathon’s charitable contributions were not really affected by the cancelation, since “95% of charity dollars were already accounted for.”

It’s almost college football bowl season, and at the four pillar Bowl Championship Series games, charitable giving has amounted to about 2% of all revenue generated since the BCS began, a 2010 study compiled by the Arizona Republic shows.

Since the BCS was formed during the 1998-1999 season, the study revealed the Rose, Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta Bowls generated revenue of almost $759 million and gave to charity $14.8 million. For 2012, the Fiesta Bowl has already donated $400,000 to 23 local charities as part of its annual giving effort.

This fall, as reported by CSN Bay Area, the Oakland A’s have donated "a full playoff share to local and national charities.” The A’s share of 2012 MLB Playoff revenue was $2,124,312.75, and the players “decided to split the money into 51 full shares, 9.786 partial shares, and 20 cash awards.” They took the 51st full share, worth $34,325.16, and “gave it to charities of their choosing” including UMPS CARE, Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, United Way of the Bay Area, Donnie Moore Ministries, and the ‘Strike 3 Foundation.’

Since October 2005 when NBA Cares was launched, the NBA and its teams have raised more than $205 million for charity, provided more than 2.1 million hours of hands-on service, and built more than 750 places where families and children can live, learn, or play in communities around the world.

At least at one time, they could agree on something. In November 2005, the NHL and NHLPA jointly selected the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation as their official children’s charity. The league-wide alliance includes players from all 30 NHL clubs and benefits children’s health, education, and inner-city services. Since its inception, NHL players have donated more than $2.5 million to the Brooks foundation—but sadly, it is one more entity bound to suffer residual damage from the NHL’s prolonged lockout.

The NFL, finally, has never been shy about promoting the good works of its NFL Giving umbrella and NFL Charities, the non-profit foundation that grants nearly $10 million each year towards national initiatives and embodies the NFL’s commitment to communities, the next generation, and sports medicine advancements.

While the league paints in broad, bold strokes, the most meaningful act perhaps ever committed by anyone operating under the NFL shield came last Sunday, when Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders Megan Meadors, a former Miss Indiana, and Crystal Ann B. had their heads shaved on the sidelines on live TV in order to support Colts coach Chuck Pagano in his battle with leukemia.

For most women—especially women whose livelihoods depend on their beauty—shaving their heads is on a shortlist of ultimate sacrifices. In submitting to the shaver on Sunday, Megan and Crystal Ann raised $22,000 for leukemia research. Their act was a true embodiment of the spirit of giving—and an inspiration for us all as the holiday season unfolds.




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Rick Horrow, America’s leading expert in sport business, and coauthor Karla Swatek give fans an inside look at the multibillion-dollar world of professional sport.
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Rick Horrow, America’s leading expert in sport business, and coauthor Karla Swatek give fans an inside look at the multibillion-dollar world of professional sport.
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