Recently retired NFL star Chris Long and adidas were honored last week with ESPN Sports Humanitarian Awards for their environmentally-related work.
The ESPY Awards, ESPN’s self-proclaimed “Oscars of Sports,” took place in Los Angeles on Wednesday, complete with red carpet, fancy gowns and ESPY’s going to the US Women’s Soccer Team (Best Team) along with one of its stars, Alex Morgan (Best Female Athlete).
The night before, the sporting community got together for the fifth annual Sports Humanitarian Awards presented by ESPN and sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb Company to “celebrate those who have used the power of sports to make a positive impact on society.”
GreenSportsBlog readers will be familiar with two of the winners.
Chris Long, most recently with the Philadelphia Eagles, was honored with the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award, given “to an athlete whose continuous, demonstrated leadership has created a measured positive impact on their community through sports.”
Chris Long, accepting the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award (Photo credit: ESPN)
That positive impact is expressed through Long’s Waterboys initiative, which funds the building and maintenance of wells in drought-stricken, climate crisis-bedeviled East Africa. To date, 26 NFL players from 21 teams have joined the cause to fund the construction of 61 wells, providing clean, safe drinking water for 225,000 people.
Beyond his environmental work, Long also was recognized for donating his entire 2017 salary to benefit educational equality. He encouraged his fans to join him in the effort and many stepped up to the challenge. Long’s “Pledge 10 for Tomorrow” raised $1.75 million to support the three cities in which he spent his NFL career: St. Louis, Boston and Philadelphia.
The Sports Sustainability Leadership Award goes to an organization that is “leveraging the power of sports to make a positive impact on the environment.”
Adidas earned the 2019 award for its partnership with Parley for The Oceans, in which they create fabric from upcycled plastic waste that is intercepted on beaches and in coastal communities before it gets to the ocean. This helps to, per ESPN, “turn a threat into a thread.”
Parley for the Oceans tennis shirt from adidas (Photo credit: adidas)
The adidas x Parley line transforms the plastics into jerseys, shoes and other into high performance sportswear. Five million pairs of Parley shoes were produced in 2018, with the company planning to produce 11 million pairs of shoes containing recycled ocean plastic by the end of this year.
Adidas x Parley women’s running shoes (Photo credit: adidas)
The adidas-Parley partnership exists to try to extend the date, currently predicted to be 2050, when there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans. With that in mind, adidas also is working to educate consumers about the necessity of healthy oceans, the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans, and the ways to reduce and then eliminate the use of unnecessary virgin plastic. The company says its focus on using sustainable materials and reducing waste will help it cut its CO₂ emissions.
GSB’s Take: Honoring Chris Long is a no brainer. And we believe the judges got it right with the choice of adidas and Parley for The Oceans for the Sports Sustainability Leadership Award. That high-profile partnership is drawing much-needed attention to the plastic ocean waste issue and is making a difference — although it’s not clear how much of one — on the amount of waste that gets into our waterways. And, as someone who wears a Parley tennis shirt, I can attest that they make a great garment.
We have one bit of constructive criticism that we hope the Poo-Bahs of ESPN take to heart.
GSB believes there needs to be a Sports Climate Leadership Award dedicated to the team, league, and/or athlete(s) who specifically address the climate crisis in a meaningful way(s).
C’mon ESPN, you know we have the length of Mike Trout’s mega contract extension (11 years and shrinking) to make serious decarbonization strides. The least you can do is honor those sports entities that are moving in the right direction.