One of GreenSportsBlog’s biggest goals for 2016 was to highlight eco-athletes wherever we could find them. In today’s GSB News & Notes, we feature two such athletes: 1. University of Wisconsin basketball star Bronson Koenig experiences the Standing Rock pipeline protest in North Dakota first hand—and plays a leading role while there. 2. Ebbe Sand, who played for Denmark in the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups, and who currently lives in Dubai, is leading the charge behind the development of the world’s first eco-sports hub. A TGIF, eco-athlete, activist GSB News & Notes: I love it!
BRONSON KOENIG, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN BASKETBALL STAR, JOINS STANDING ROCK PROTEST
In his first three seasons at the University of Wisconsin, senior shooting guard Bronson Koenig (KAY-nig), played a leading role in the greatest era in Badgers basketball, which included two Final Four runs. When he traveled to Standing Rock, ND this September to join the protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is slated to run below sacred Sioux burial grounds and, many believe, will threaten the quality of the water supply, Koenig took on two new roles: Native American leader and eco-athlete.
Koenig, whose mother is a member of the Ho-Chunk tribe, wrote in a gripping account, “What I Found in Standing Rock,” published Thursday in The Players’ Tribune, that he’d come to “join the protest, and also to give a free clinic for the local kids. As a college basketball player, I felt that it was the best way I could show my support for the protests…I’ve played basketball my whole life, and a lot of pickup ball. I thought I’d seen every type of basketball court, but this dirt court was unlike anything I’d ever experienced [yet] I was surprised to find a group of 50 or so kids waiting for me at the outdoor hoop, ready to play.”
Playing outdoors on a dirt court was one thing to Koenig; doing so in the midst of a standoff with police was quite another: “In basketball, you strive to anticipate what’s going to happen next. Running through drills out there on the dirt and the prairie grass, my eyes kept wandering to the horizon — to the hills just a mile north where the bulldozers were. I’d never played basketball surrounded by police and blockades.”
Bronson Koenig and protesters shoot hoops at an outdoor basket at the Standing Rock, ND camp. (Photo credit: The Players’ Tribune)
If the star guard, who is most well known for hitting the buzzer-beating 3-point shot to knock off Xavier in March to send the Badgers to the Sweet 16, didn’t see himself as a Native American role model before he arrived at Standing Rock, he certainly does so now: “I didn’t grow up with any Native American role models…I knew that if I could be someone who even one kid from Standing Rock looked up to, I’d be prouder of that than of anything I had ever done — or might ever do — on the basketball court. Looking out at the kids, I was proud that they were seeing someone succeeding who looked a little like they did.
Bronson Koenig leaves the court after hitting the buzzer-beating three pointer to knock off Xavier in the Round of 32 in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
What Koenig may not yet realize is that he is also establishing himself as in important eco-athlete. I’ll let Koenig’s own words, a manifesto and a call to action of sorts, from the closing section of his Players’ Tribune piece, demonstrate how his is a voice we will hopefully hear from at the intersection of Green + Sports in the years to come: “On the road [back to Madison], I wondered what the future would bring for the Standing Rock Sioux…Would the oil company continue to ignore the warnings of climate scientists?…Would the government that had confined Sioux warriors like Sitting Bull and his descendants to reservations have a change of heart and protect the water resources of Native Americans?…Now it’s December [and] I’m seeing reports that police have used high-pressure water cannons on protesters — men, women and children. In the subfreezing North Dakota winter, that’s a potentially deadly combination…I can’t help but think about the cruel irony that water is being used as a weapon against Native Americans who are trying to protect their own water supply…Today, the target may be Standing Rock. But Native people aren’t the only ones who are affected by threats to the environment. Clean water is a precious resource. It belongs to all of us, whatever our heritage. We must all protect it.”
EX-DANISH NATIONAL SOCCER STAR BRINGS WORLD’S FIRST SUSTAINABLE SPORTS HUB TO DUBAI
Imagine, if you a will, the world’s first sustainable sports hub/recreation center. It would feature, on the sports side, a myriad of fields, tennis courts, swimming pool, indoor and outdoor climbing walls, zip line, skateboard park and the requisite state-of-the-art sports academy.
Sustainability-wise, it would include solar panels, recycling and composting, smart grid electricity management, as well as water preservation and re-use systems. Add on a climate lab and research center and you’ve really got a great sustainability imagination!
As for location, I’m sure you would imagine it in Portland, or maybe Boston?
Maybe you would but Ebbe Sand, formerly of the Danish national soccer team—he played for Denmark in the 1998 and 2002—not only imagined it, he is developing it—in Dubai of call places.
Artist’s rendering of The Sports Hub by Ebbe Sand in Dubai. (Credit: Jumeirah Golf Estates)
Designed to accommodate local and international sports enthusiasts and fans, plans for the Hub also include a sustainable boutique hotel and meeting facilities. Sand, who lives at Jumeirah Golf Estates, is now in talks with local and global operators and anchor tenants eager to lease the space.
Ebbe Sand, formerly of the Danish national soccer team and founder of The Sports Hub in Dubai. (Photo credit:
Sand, the project founder, told Chris Nelson of The National, a leading daily in the UAE on November 1 that, “Through the Green Sports Hub, I look forward to bringing extensive and varied sporting facilities to Dubai, as well as to creating a vibrant and multi-functional sustainable attraction that is used as a social and educational resource among local and international visitors. The Green Sports Hub will be a community that inspires a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.”