As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the U.S., businesses across the country are closing down to help enforce social distancing. In the sports world, virtually every competition has been put on hiatus, leaving athletes with a lot of time on their hands. The common question across athletes’ social media platforms is: “What can I do to help?”
In the NBA, players like Zion Williamson, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Blake Griffin all pledged to cover salaries for workers at their teams’ respective arenas. While those efforts grabbed headlines, athletes from around the sports world have donated to workers, community organizations and charities.
Over the weekend, sports agency Octagon facilitated a program that gives athletes a framework for relief efforts during the outbreak. While Octagon started the idea, the agency has invited all athletes to join in.
“We noticed the number of athletes that were stepping up to donate publicly and privately,” said David Schwab, executive vice president of Octagon. “But then in their replies and in their posts, they were saying, ‘How do we do more? How do we do things together?’ So we contacted a fundraising platform and built the site Athletes for [COVID-19] Relief.”
Within 36 hours of its launch, 75 athletes had already signed onto the program on the PledgeIt platform. While plenty of athletes are giving their own money, the site is designed to provide sports fans a place to donate. Every athlete offers up a signed piece of memorabilia, and any person who gives at least $25 gets a chance to win that item. While $25 is the minimum, fans have already donated up to $1,000 in some cases. All proceeds go to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund.
Participating athletes have gone far beyond basketball and include gymnast Simone Biles, former Red Sox player David Ortiz, swimmer Michael Phelps, snowboarder Shaun White, WNBA player Elena Delle Donne and many more. Crucially, all athletes are welcome regardless of their affiliations.
“It’s men, it’s women. It’s the United States, it’s international,” Schwab said. “It’s just the beginning; we all have a long road ahead of us. This is just one of the things athletes are trying to do additively, on top of other financial contributions. We’re all in this together. If this is just one small thing to raise attention, funds and knowledge, then I think that’s great.”
“There are so many things people can do to support those affected right now. Big or small, every donation or act of service goes a long way,” added Delle Donne, a forward for the Washington Mystics in the WNBA. “It’s been amazing to see all the donations made to the Athletes for Relief initiative so far, but this is just the start. Please spread the news, donate where you can, and if other athletes want to participate, raise your hand. We want to get everyone on board.”