I’ve always thought a lot about the power of people in the spotlight. I think it’s the main reason why I’m pursuing a career working with professional athletes in sports broadcasting. When people know your name, look up to you, respect you there is endless opportunity to influence. To do good. When it comes to professional athletes we see this manifested. They’re often leaders in and out of the locker room. Most professional athletes have a charity they support or a foundation they’ve started. Some because of the tax break, sure, but others because they recognize their influence and want to make a difference for something near and dear to their heart. While this post comes at a time when politics and sports converge in a way we’ve arguably never seen before, I will hold back from diving into the big, multi-faceted mess.
Instead, I will use a feel good story we can all agree on:
While Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Texas, Houston Texans Defensive End JJ Watt quickly mobilized fundraising efforts. On August 27th he set out to raise $200,000. As the money came in he adjusted the goal, adjusted the goal, adjusted the goal until reaching a whopping $31 million. The Wisconsin native was overwhelmed with gratitude.
With his personable nature it’s no surprise people want to support Watt’s rally. He exudes authenticity, coming in with no ulterior motive and relatable values. At the Texans season opener on September 10th Watt was given a heroes welcome. He emerged from the tunnel waving the Texas flag to a roarous NRG Stadium crowd, celebrating the resilience of a city that has endured so much. If he wasn’t already a leader, in these two short but trying weeks Watt grew into a symbol of selflessness and hope. From Defensive End to a guy who could easily run for State Senate.
It begs the question, what is a professional athlete’s responsibility?
As faces of their communities, athletes are the 1 in 100 million, the chosen ones, the privileged who make more money than anyone needs and live a life most can only dream of. These things often overshadow the sacrificed personal space and personal lives. Most sports fans don’t see the trying times, the struggles, the hardships and the pressure. Afterall, professional sport is ultimately the entertainment business. With athletes like JJ Watt doing his job, acting as a role models amid the spotlight, it makes his work that much more powerful. Inspiring the rest of us to give what we can and make a difference in our communities.