Posted By: Michael Cecchin
There is no denying the fact that the world of professional sports has taken a glamorous turn over the past 20 years with league and team revenues hitting highs and player salaries constantly in the millions. This economic surge and financial growth has led to, for the most part, a negative outlook on most athletes who enjoy the benefits and comfortable living playing the game they love. Many athletes are looked upon as selfish and irresponsible in terms of their financial stability, when in fact many athletes prioritize assisting their communities but are not properly educated in the field of philanthropy which can lead to premature bankruptcy. Former NFL cornerback and six-year veteran Reggie Howard is well aware of his peers’ reputation within the public eye and knows first hand that these assumptions are truly not the case for a good majority of pro athletes. He has stepped up alongside Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis to not only clarify the public eye, but steer these athletes in the right direction.
The United Athletes Foundation was established in 2008 with the hopes of improving the lives of both athletes and society in it’s entirety. With over 90 professional athletes from the NBA, WNBA, NFL, MLB and professional boxing involved, the United Athletes Foundation supports various causes in various parts of the world that assist and better many communities.
“Our overall goal in what we we’re trying to accomplish with the organization was basically uniting athletes around the world for the benefit of communities,” said Reggie.
“Rather than pick one cause to just go behind, we thought it was more important to put our organization in a position where it became an empowerment organization to basically put individual athletes into positions where they can become ambassadors of their cities and ambassadors of their causes, so that was the real vision of why we formed United Athletes Foundation, to simply unite athletes across the world,” he explained.
The United Athletes Foundation operates on three different levels of empowerment, which contribute to the stability of both athletes and the community. The Foundation hosts a number of financial literacy symposiums and programs across the United States to inform and educate athletes about the world of philanthropy and the importance of understanding all financial aspects of their personal lives, as well as their foundations and causes.
“We kept hearing the criticisms about athletes not really giving back and we knew that wasn’t a true statement, we knew athletes did care about giving back and we knew they did care about the community,” elucidated the former Memphis Tiger.
“The alarming statistics we saw were of NFL players and NBA players going bankrupt, unemployed and divorced very quickly after retirement. Whether it was after two years after being retired from the NFL or five years after being retired from the NBA, it just was an alarming statistic and because of that fact it was also causing their non-profits to go out of business because that one individual mainly funded them,” he continued.
“Once their income or financial situation started to deteriorate, so did the community effort they were trying to accomplish in their specific city. That’s where we really saw the value of bringing ourselves together and becoming an informational organization and more about empowering these individuals. We are behind the scenes helping them help their community.”
Aside from teaching athletes the importance of financial literacy, the Foundation is also heavily involved in promoting and expanding various foundations and programs into larger markets in larger communities to assist more people. Through strategic partnerships with athlete members of their organization and assisting in fundraising efforts and events, the UAF helps raise awareness and the effectiveness and efficiency of each program.
The United Athletes Foundation is also heavily involved with children’s relief and has partnerships with both St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Gates Millennium Scholars Program.
“We’ve been focused on St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital by helping them create more awareness and help push their cause to the community. We also work with the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, which is the 10-year scholarship program that’s administered by the United Negro College Fund,” explained the President and Executive Director of the United Athletes Foundation.
“With what we’ve been doing with financial literacy it kind of got us in a position where one of our financial literacy partners introduced us to a company that was doing housing rehab so we announced in New York that we’ll be partnering with another organization in partnership with our financial literacy partner to do rehab work in Atlanta, Baltimore and New Orleans,” added the Memphis, Tennessee native.
The United Athletes Foundation is one of a kind and gives numerous athletes the ability to give back to their communities in support of any cause they hope to support. Names like Julius Erving, Hank Aaron and music mogul Russell Simmons, are all involved with the Foundation and have created positive impacts on many others. Many athletes and individuals in the spotlight are misunderstood and can be easily taken advantage of. The ideals of Reggie Howard, Ray Lewis and many others, have given these athletes the chance to give back while gaining the proper knowledge and skill set to do so.
“I think there needs to be a source guys can go to and feel comfortable and just know there’s an organization that truly cares about athletes helping athletes. There’s no conflict with our organization being run by another company or anything from that standpoint,” says the former Carolina Panther. “We’re a freestanding organization that truly has the goal of helping these athletes accomplish what they want to do in their community.”
“You want to train the people that have the best opportunity to help others and if we can help the youth as early as possible so we don’t have to go through a brainwashing process or educating them after they’ve lost everything, the real goal is catching them before they get the opportunity to come into substantial wealth so we can give them a blue print and pattern of understanding how to get the goal done the right way,” concluded Howard.
To learn more about the United Athletes Foundation, visit http://www.unitedathletesfoundation.org/