For a sport that’s all about intense rivalries, tackling and trash-talking, football is actually pretty generous. In recent years the NFL has begun prioritizing social justice issues, promoting healthcare initiatives and bettering communities — but it’s playing catch-up with some superstar players who’ve long been making strides when it comes to giving back. The league is actually full of famous faces who are committed to using their platforms to help others.
Russell Wilson, Travis Kelce, Devin McCourty and others have made it a part of their personal mission to give back to people and communities through fundraisers, charities and hands-on activism that demonstrate a commitment to excellence both on and off the field. Here’s how these players are making touchdowns when it comes to philanthropy.
Russell Wilson Helps Combat Food Insecurity and Systemic Racism
With years of charitable work on his resume, it’s no wonder Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks won the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. Wilson has centered his efforts on feeding children, families and seniors who experience food insecurity; he and his wife, R&B singer Ciara, have donated $1 million to Feeding America, a hunger-relief nonprofit. With his Why Not You Foundation, the NFL star has also collaborated with DoorDash, the Rockefeller Foundation and United Way Worldwide to help Ride United deliver supplies and food to 175 communities across the country.
Wilson and Ciara have also used their platforms to fight systemic racism and show support for the Black Lives Matter movement using billboards and digital message boards throughout the U.S. Since his rookie campaign, Wilson has also visited Seattle Children’s Hospital every Tuesday during the season.
Myles Garrett Commits to Social Justice Efforts and Access to Clean Water
When Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns isn’t setting records on the field, he’s involved in multiple charity efforts — and he’s also emerged as a true leader in the social justice space. Garrett has personally reached out to victims of police brutality and covered funeral costs for David McAtee, a community pillar and restaurant owner who was murdered by police in Louisville, Kentucky.
Another effort that’s important to Garrett is universal access to clean water. He actively works with the Waterboys Organization to bring clean water to communities worldwide. With his recent Tackle Thirst Campaign, he also pledged $5,000 to the Waterboys Organization for every sack he made, and enlisted Browns fans and Cleveland-area businesses to take the pledge as well.
Jaylon Smith’s Charity Work Centers On Helping Kids
Former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith has used his platform to help underserved communities and kids throughout the country. Smith works with his brother (and fellow NFL player) Rod Smith to host football camps for at-risk youth in their hometown in Indiana. He’s also visited patients in various North Texas children’s hospitals, granted wishes to youth through the Make-A-Wish Foundation and purchased holiday gifts for children in need as part of the Salvation Army Angel Tree Program.
Jimmy Graham Regularly Gives Back to the Troops
In addition to his other charitable efforts that focus on developing youth programs and fighting racial inequality, Chicago Bears tight end Jimmy Graham is committed to showing support for those who serve the U.S. military. Through his nonprofit organization, the Jimmy Graham Foundation, Graham is committed to providing flight experiences to veterans and youth across the country. He’s also worked with the Bears’ Salute to Service week by reading the biographies of several fallen soldiers and virtually surprising their families through the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).
Mike Evans Assists With COVID-19 Relief and Promotes Voter Participation
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans has made an intentional commitment to community efforts, and he’s leading the way with various charitable efforts. He’s donated to help families impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, committing $100,000 from the Mike Evans Family Foundation to support United Way Suncoast and his hometown of Galveston, Texas, with relief efforts.
Evans has also been vocal about voter registration and participation. He helped the Bucs launch the BUCSVOTE campaign, the team’s commitment to boost voting access. Evans himself, after not participating in the 2016 election, has become a voter and wants other people to use their votes as their voices in upcoming elections.
Travis Kelce Advocates for Children Living in Underserved Communities
Kansas Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has committed to helping kids living in low-income areas in Kansas City. While partnering with Operation Breakthrough, an organization that assists families with low incomes, Kelce has spent time with families personally and donated $500,000 to help the organization purchase a new building. His 87 & Running Foundation also made a $26,000 donation to keep the doors open during the pandemic.
Kelce’s foundation also works to promote childhood education by helping kids in disadvantaged communities gain access to better education and to athletic, STEM and arts programs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelce’s donations helped more than 2,300 kids gain access to remote learning equipment and tutoring programs.
Devin McCourty Supports Sickle Cell Disease Research
Devin McCourty plays as a tight end for the New England Patriots and has contributed to organizations addressing education, social justice and wrongful convictions. However, another cause close to his heart is sickle cell disease. McCourty’s father carried the trait, and his aunt and uncle also lived with the disease. In 2013, he and his twin brother (and fellow NFL player) Jason launched the McCourty Twins Tackle Sickle Cell campaign. Through their foundation, they work regularly to educate the public, increase blood donations, and raise funds to support research and treatments.
Rodney McLeod Is Committed to Serving Philadelphia
Philadelphia Eagles safety Rodney McLeod has been giving back to the city’s community for years through different initiatives. He’s worked with multiple organizations, including the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA), a nonprofit that brings together dietitians, chefs, drivers and volunteers to cook nutritious meals and provide nutrition counseling to people who have life-threatening illnesses. Other organizations that McLeod serves include Rock to the Future, which provides free music programs to underserved youth in Philadelphia, and Laurel House, which is dedicated to supporting victims of domestic violence.
Alec Ingold Promotes Adoption Awareness
Alec Ingold is a fullback for the Oakland Raiders who’s involved in different charity efforts — but particularly a cause that’s close to his heart. Ingold was adopted at birth and partners with AdoptUSKids to help spread awareness about the need for foster and adoptive families. He has been involved with several campaigns for National Adoption Month and participated in a Las Vegas television station series called “Wednesday’s Child,” which features local children in need of foster or adoptive families. The player has also worked with the Department of Family Services of Clark County to raise awareness for its foster and adoption programs.
Trey Flowers Supports a Wide Range of Youth Programs
Detroit Lions defensive end Trey Flowers has been involved in the Detroit community since he started playing for the team in 2019. He regularly talks with and hosts events for youth, which include speaking engagements at the Inner City Learning Center Community Giveback. In April 2019, Flowers started Flowers of the Future Foundation, which is committed to providing and promoting community engagement, physical fitness, philanthropy and positivity for kids in both his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama and Detroit.