News and Notes

USA Rugby Women’s 7s, YWCA of Cleveland & NFL Engage on Climate


Earth Day means a double-shot of GreenSportsBlog!

This morning, we launched an occasional special GSB series, Sports and Carbon, by highlighting Sidelining Carbon, a new initiative that helps fans to encourage their favorite sports team(s) to offset their carbon. highlighting the carbon-reduction efforts of the Portland Timbers and Thorns.

This afternoon, we’re back with an Earth Day News & Notes column.

  • The USA Rugby Players Association, specifically the Women’s 7s, aka the Eagles, have committed to planting 5,000 CO2-absorbing trees by encouraging their fans to exercise. Talk about a win-win!

  • The YWCA of Cleveland is partnering with the National Football League ahead of next week’s draft to “curate a 21-Day Challenge around racial equity, social justice, and sports.” Included in the program is a segment on environmental justice.



Players from the USA Women’s 7s national team, as part of the U.S. Rugby Players Association (USRPA), and Ecore, a company that empowers human performance with safe, quiet, ergonomic and environmentally-friendly flooring, have teamed up to “Going for Green”, a national, interactive campaign to plant 5,000 trees for Earth Day. The campaign will benefit Eden Restoration Projects, a nonprofit that aims for an important societal-environmental win-win: Reduce extreme poverty while contributing to decarbonization by employing locals in distressed communities in a global reforestation effort.

Fans have an important role to play in the Going for Green tree planting project during Earth Week — and it’s good for them: All they — you — have to do is exercise between now and Tuesday April 27.

It’s an easy 3-step process:

  1. Download the easy-to-use Active Giving digital fitness app, create a profile, and join the USA Women’s 7s Players and Ecore Team under the “menu” button by using code RUGGFG.
  2. Get moving — starting as soon as you finish reading this post, of course — by walking, running, biking, swimming, lifting or engaging in other types of exercise.
  3. Enter the distance or duration of your activity. The app does the heavy lifting from there, calculating how many trees you helped the team plant.

Then there’s one more step: Share on social media to get friends and family to become exercising tree planters.


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The USA Women’s 7s Team Players, who are in intense preparations for the Tokyo Olympics this summer, are walking-the-green-walk and talking-the-green-talk by logging their exercise activity into the Active Giving app and by sharing their activity on social media.

“Every day we are looking for ways to harness the power of our team and of our community, seeking to accomplish together what wasn’t possible alone,” shared Alena Olsen, USA Women’s 7s player, USRPA Player Board Member, and an EcoAthletes Champion. “We can’t win Gold without each other and solving the climate crisis has to be done the same way.”


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Alena Olsen (USA Rugby)


Trees are of course crucial in mitigating climate change and the damaging consequences that come with it by absorbing CO2, including that which humans emit into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. They also moderate local climates by providing shade and regulating extreme temperatures.

“As we focus on a planet free of rubber waste while transforming reclaimed materials into performance products that make people’s lives better, we are proud to support women’s athletics by partnering with USRPA on this fun event,” said Allison Porter, Director of Sales East and Strategic Accounts for Ecore. “Our goal is to encourage healthy activity among fans of Ecore and fans of the USA Women’s 7s team players while simultaneously making a tangible contribution toward solving the climate crisis. We encourage everyone to join us as we work out and work toward planting 5,000 trees this Earth Day.”


GSB’s Take: Kudos to Ecore, Active Giving and Alena Olsen of the U.S. Rugby Women’s 7s and the USRPA, for making Going for Green a reality. Olsen deserves special mention as she was instrumental in putting this program together at the same as she is trying to secure her spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

It’s time for us to take the baton from Olsen, download the Active Giving app, enter the RUGGFG code, and get out there!



Environmental injustice — which means that people of color, with extremely low incomes and other marginalized groups are much more likely to suffer the harshest consequences of environmental calamities, from air and water pollution to the impacts of climate change — is rampant and yet is not much discussed.

Thankfully, that is beginning to change, including in the sports world, sometimes in seemingly unlikely ways.

With Earth Day and next weekend’s NFL Draft in mind, the YWCA of Cleveland — host city for the in-person extravaganza next Thursday-to-Saturday — and the league have partnered on a 21-Day #NFLDraftChallenge centered on racial equity, social justice, and sports. From April 7th to the 28th, the day before the Draft kicks off, members of the NFL family will participate in the challenge by listening to podcasts, reading articles, and watching videos that deepen their understanding of topics such as racism and identity, systemic racism,  intersectionality, and, yes, environmental injustice.

The YWCA of Cleveland encourages fans to join current players and legends, NFL media personalities, and executives as they challenge themselves to learn more, address social justice issues in their community. The goal is to inspire real change based on what they learn throughout the Challenge. Per the Y, “New content is being added each day, and you never know which of your favorite athletes will be participating.”

The YWCA of Cleveland produced 12 days worth of readings and videos, with each day centering on a different social justice topic. Each day’s subject matter is introduced by a different member of the NFL family; all 12 can be accessed on the #NFLDraftChallenge website. Topics include Antiracism (introduced by Cleveland Browns legend Joe Thomas), Voter Suppression (NFL Network reporter Jim Trotter), Women in Prison (NFL Network reporter Judy Battista), and Racism in Medical Care (Cleveland native and former NFL offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley).


LeCharles Bentley speaks about racism in the medical system as part of the #NFLDraftChallenge


The 12th and final topic, the Health Effects of Environmental Racism, is introduced by Jack Groh. The longtime director of the NFL’s Greening efforts wrote: “As a result of America’s perpetual segregation, exposure to environmental hazards–such as landfills, heavy industry, and lead–has disproportionately impacted communities color. Such exposure causes higher instances of serious health conditions, such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, and cognitive impairment. This reality did not happen by accident; it is a direct result of deliberate policy choices.”


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Jack Groh (Photo credit: NFL)



GSB’s Take: The fact that the NFL — by far the most popular sports league in the USA — is beginning to talk publicly about environmental justice and environmental racism is an important step. Don’t worry, GSB readers — we will still take the NFL to task when need be. And we will praise the league when it does the right thing. The #NFLDraftChallenge is one such case, if just a start.

In fact, GSB will keep the pressure on the league so they amplify this work, including the environmental justice aspects. Is a #NFLSuperBowlLVIChallenge too much to ask for next February in LA? I think not.

Watch this space!


Photo at top: The USA Women’s Rugby 7s, aka “The Eagles” (Photo credit: USA Rugby) 



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