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Nonprofit Leaders 4min read

African American Athletes Making Philanthropic History

Idolized by millions, professional athletes like Serena Williams, Colin Kaepernick, David Ortiz “Big Papi,” Michael Bennet and many more often make headlines on the court and off the court. Nowadays, a growing number use their platforms to raise awareness and donate to charitable work around the world. With that in mind, we built a brief list of athletes who choose to raise up people in underprivileged black communities through giving. By working in a nonprofit fashion, they were able to raise funds and donate even if it meant from their own pockets. Here are some of the big names in sports who are giving back in a major way. Use their hard work and dedication as your inspiration when you sign up for Givelify.

Calais Campbell – NFL’s 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year

The Walter Payton Man of the Year award is given to the NFL player recognized for their humanitarian and charity work as well as outstanding performance on the field. It has recognized some of the most generous black athletes in history. In 2019 the award was given to Calais Campbell, Defensive End for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Campbell began a fundraising campaign called “Season of Giving,” during which he would donate money to his foundation based on his and the team’s on-field performance. At the end of the 2019 season, Campbell’s total money raised was $100,000, and he had made enough of a social impact to be voted the Walter Payton Man of the Year by his peers. Campbell’s generosity extends further back as well. In 2015 he donated 1.6 Million Dollars to establish a scholarship at the University of Miami. The donation was the largest donation by a former student-athlete in the school’s history. 

Other notable black winners of the award are Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Thomas Davis Sr, Charles Tillman, Madieu Williams, Brian Waters, Jason Taylor, LaDanian Tomlinson, Warrick Dunn, Will Shields, Troy Vincent, Jerome “The Bus” Bettis, and Derrick Brooks.

And that’s just from the past 20 years of this 50-year tradition.

David Robinson

NBA great and all-around good guy David Robinson was a legend in his era. But his work with the Carver Academy may be his greatest and most enduring legacy.

Robinson and his wife Valerie founded the Carver Academy, an independent school based on Judeo-Christian principles, and gave $9 million toward its endowment. Robinson’s philanthropy continues to this day by serving on the boards of several foundations and charities.

In 2018, Robinson received the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award from ESPN, the third major humanitarian award of his lifetime.

Lebron James  

Lebron James is an NBA superstar but also a generous philanthropist who loves to give back to his hometown of Akron, Ohio. James was raised by a single parent and understands the importance of education.

He’s passionate about providing educational opportunities for at-risk and low-income youth. Most notably, James opened a school called “I Promise” which currently houses 240 at-risk third and fourth-grade students in his hometown. The school, a project of the LeBron James Family Foundation and Akron Public Schools, provides students with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Students will receive:

  • Free tuition 
  • Free uniforms
  • Free breakfast, lunch, and snacks
  • Free transportation within 2 miles
  • A free bicycle and helmet
  • Access to a food pantry for their family
  • Guaranteed tuition for all graduates to the University of Akron

By 2022, he plans to expand the school and open it to grades 1-8. James has provided millions to this project and has proven that he is a role model both on and off the court.  

Magic Johnson  

NBA superstar, businessman, and philanthropist Earvin “Magic” Johnson knows the importance of giving back. After being diagnosed with HIV in 1991, he founded the Magic Johnson Foundation to provide education, prevention, and research for those affected by AIDS. The foundation has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to build state-of-the-art clinics and provide grants to community-based organizations, especially those that focus on health initiatives for youth, women, and people of color.  The foundation now awards scholarships and organizes mentoring and internship programs, as well as sponsoring job and health fairs. For nearly 20 years, Johnson has donated millions to charity and has earned the title of philanthropist.

African American athletes are changing the world through giving. With their celebrity status, their massive donations make a difference. During Black History Month, and every month, let’s give thanks to all who give, no matter how big or small. 

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About the Author

Basha Coleman