GSB News & Notes

Athletes’ Voices Getting Louder In Support of #ClimateComeback


More athletes are speaking out on the need for climate action more often and more forcefully than ever before.

Today’s GSB News & Notes offers two examples from Tuesday athletes leading the #ClimateComeback: 

1) A group of American athletes sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, urging that he do whatever is necessary to push climate legislation across the finish line this summer. BBC Sport picked up on the story, showing the power athletes have to drive awareness and interest on behalf of climate action.

2) Grid News, a new entrant in the thought leader/news magazine space, published a long form, deeply researched story about how climate change is impacting warm-weather sports in which athletes voices were featured prominently.



A diverse group of elite American athletes— including Olympians, Major Leaguers, NCAA student-athletes and more — delivered a letter Tuesday to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) calling on him to lead the U.S. Senate in passing bold climate legislation that is being currently being negotiated. 

“Climate change is a huge challenge, but it is solvable,” says 10-year National Women’s Soccer League veteran Jasmyne Spencer, one of the 23 signatories to the letter, and like many of them, an EcoAthletes Champion. “As athletes we know a lot about summoning the will to overcome big obstacles and challenges. It takes teamwork, persistence, and commitment. And it takes leadership. That is what we need from Senator Schumer right now. We know he can do it and we want him to know that we support his efforts to work with his colleagues in the Senate to craft a climate deal.”

Jasmyne Spencer (Photo credit: Jane Gershovich)


The letter was sent as key senators negotiate an ambitious package of investments to advance federal climate, clean energy, advanced manufacturing, and environmental justice policies. Sadly, the truth is that the negotiations are being conducted among Democrats only as there seem to be no Republican senators interested in voting for the bill.

Thus, to pass the bill in the 50-50 U.S. Senate (it already passed the House), all 50 Democrats need to vote yes and then the tie-breaking vote would be cast in favor by Vice President Kamala Harris in her role as President of the Senate. A simple majority would suffice in this case as the Democrats would use the reconciliation process (click here for details) to avoid needing to break a filibuster with a 60-vote super majority. As of now, most expert Senate observers think that 48 Democratic yes votes are locked in, with Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) the lone holdouts. Manchin is thought to be the toughest nut to crack. 

Not ideal to be sure, but as in sports, winning means overcoming obstacles. A coal state senator like Manchin is one heck of an obstacle.

The West Virginia senator, as well as the other 537 members of Congress have heard in recent weeks from policymakers, environmentalists, and major businesses that see #ClimateComeback investments as critical to protecting U.S. communities from climate threats while generating new industries and economic growth to confront those challenges. 

Yesterday, Senator Schumer, the quarterback of the climate legislation, heard from climate-minded athletes who are willing to use their platforms to make a difference on the issue.

Retired NFL offensive lineman Garry Gilliam explained why he signed the letter to Senator Schumer: “Beyond sports, we have seen the climate crisis affect our communities, especially the most disadvantaged communities who are hurt first and worst. All of us have a role to play in bringing solutions to life. There is no time to wait.”

Gilliam is spot on when it comes to timing.

Garry Gilliam (Photo credit: The Bridge Eco Village)


Congress is about to take its traditional July 4th recess, come back for much of the rest of July and early August before they take the rest of that month off. Come the fall and Congress will be in campaign mode in advance of the November mid-term elections. Given inflation, COVID’s stubbornness, supply chain issues and more, the strong expectation is that the Democrats will lose control of the House and perhaps the Senate. All the Republicans need is the majority in one chamber of Congress to stop any meaningful climate legislation from passing.

So, now — as in before the August recess — is the time politically speaking, for climate legislation.

For athletes who experience climate change in real time as they play their sports, the time for climate action is…yesterday.

“It is not your imagination that baseball games are getting hotter,” said Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brent Suter. “The length of the heat wave season has tripled since the 1960s. This isn’t simply uncomfortable; it is lethal. More people die each year from heat waves than from hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and other hazards combined. The science is clear that it is only going to get worse if we do not act. As a parent and a Christian, I am compelled to work on solutions to the challenge before us.”

The Schumer-Athletes Letter got traction overseas as Suter was interviewed about it Tuesday on BBC Sport Today. Click here to listen to the 3 minute 30 second interview, with Suter’s segment starting at the 10 second mark. Hopefully, stateside media will also push this story.

Brent Suter (Photo credit: MLB/Milwaukee Brewers)

Here’s an even more important hope: Senator Schumer follows in the footsteps of New York Jets and Giants Super Bowl winning quarterbacks Joe Namath, Phil Simms, Jeff Hostetler and Eli Manning by leading senate passage of climate legislation.

Will Chuck Schumer have the same success with climate legislation that Joe Namath did for the New York Jets in Super Bowl III? (Photo credit: Getty Images)




Grid News recently launched with the mission to ‘connect with an audience that wants a deeper, clearer understanding of the world around them, regardless of their political orientation.’ Climate reporter Dave Levitan and a team of data visualization reporters took that approach to the intersection of climate and sports in ‘From bad refs to brain-eating amoebas: How climate change is reshaping warm-weather sports’. The long-form, deeply researched story about how Increasing temperatures, rising sea levels and more extreme weather impact outdoor sports at all levels posted on Tuesday.

Academics at the forefront of sports-sustainability, including Dr. Madeleine ‘Maddy’ Orr, a lecturer in sport business at Loughborough University in London and founder of the Sport Ecology Group, and Dr. Jessica Murfree, a visiting assistant professor of health and kinesiology at Texas A&M University, from feature prominently in the data-driven piece.

Levitan’s story also gave several EcoAthletes Champions the opportunity to share their direct experiences with extreme weather on the pitch, the road, and beyond. Here are two examples:

  1. Jordan Marie Daniel, a runner and Indigenous activist from the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, said that she has seen significant changes in conditions at long-distance events that she has returned to a decade or more since her first entry. “As an athlete, you’re trying to adjust; you’re trying to add in heat training, humidity training, you’re trying to adapt for all of these things,” she said. “I feel like a lot of people think it’s an isolated incident, but it’s not.”
  2. Tess Howard, a forward on the England and Great Britain national field hockey teams, and an EcoAthletes Champion, offered that, “We play on water-based pitches currently,” referring to the way that the playing surface is nearly flooded to allow for smoother game play. “India is a classic example, because you’re either in monsoon season, so the pitch is flooded, or you’re in extreme heat, so you have to keep flooding the pitch with water in a country that’s already got huge inequalities.”

Tess Howard (Photo credit: Team England)


Photo at top: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (Photo credit: Tasos Katopodis)

GSB’s Take: The number of athletes speaking out on climate has gone from a trickle to a steady stream. That media outlets like BBC Sport and Grid News are picking up the stories of these athletes should lead more of their peers to join in. To paraphrase Tess Howard in a different context, perhaps we’ll experience a flood of climate-minded athletes, and soon.

Watch this space.

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