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Ernie Els nominated for Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award

June 14, 2017

BRISTOL, Conn.- Nominees and select honorees from across the world of sports were unveiled for the third annual Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards, presented by ESPN and sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb. The event will celebrate and honor leagues, teams, individuals and members of the sporting community that are using the power of sport to make a positive impact on society. It will take place for the first time at L.A. LIVE’s The Novo on Tuesday, July 11.
Multiple sports leagues and/or governing bodies – including MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL, PGA TOUR, USOC, USTA, WNBA and WWE – have nominated athletes, teams and community members who are transforming lives and uplifting communities.

During the event, winners will be announced from nominees of three returning award categories: Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year, Corporate Community Impact Award and League Humanitarian Leadership Award. New this year is the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award (changed from last year’s Sports Humanitarian of the Year) to honor the legacy of Muhammad Ali’s impact on society. Additionally, three Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award honorees will be recognized.

Below are the nominees for the four categories and the honorees for the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award:

• Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award finalists: Ernie Els (PGA TOUR), Larry Fitzgerald (NFL’s Arizona Cardinals), Mark Giordano (NHL’s Calgary Flames) and Curtis Granderson (MLB’s New York Mets)
• Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award finalists: Chicago White Sox (MLB), Memphis Grizzlies (NBA), New York City Football Club (MLS) and San Francisco 49ers (NFL)
• Corporate Community Impact Award finalists: Chevron, DICK’S Sporting Goods, HOK and Under Armour
• League Humanitarian Leadership Award: Winner to be announced at the dinner, July 11
• Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award honorees: WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon, Orlando City Soccer Club and the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality

Laila Ali will return as host for the Sports Humanitarian Awards for the third year alongside ESPN’s Mike Greenberg. Highlights of the evening will be showcased during a one-hour program on ESPN, July 25, at 7 p.m. ET. Additionally, Lilly Oncology is returning as an event sponsor.

The net proceeds of the event will benefit the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund at the V Foundation. In addition, ESPN will grant another $1 million to the charities of the nominees and winners. Combined, more than $1.7 million was distributed to the community as a result of the initiative in 2016.

The finalists and winners have been determined by an independent selection committee, which includes: Nick Keller, Founder and President of Beyond Sport, Donald Lassere, CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center, Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, CEO of Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA, Sab Singh, Founder of Sports Doing Good, Caryl Stern, CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Eli Wolff, Director of the Sport and Society program at Brown University.
“The Sports Humanitarian Awards finalists and honorees are making a true, measurable impact on society using the power of sports,” said Kevin Martinez, vice president of ESPN Corporate Citizenship. “With the newly named Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award, moving the event to The Novo and an hour-long special on ESPN, this year’s show promises to be the best yet.”
Below are the award descriptions, as well as details about the nominees and honorees for the 2017 Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards.

The Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award recognizes an athlete whose continuous, demonstrated leadership has created a positive impact on their community through sports. The winner will be able to direct a $100,000 grant from ESPN to the qualified charity related to the award-winning humanitarian efforts. The finalists will be able to direct a $25,000 grant to the charity related to their award-winning efforts. 

Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award nominees:

• Ernie Els: In 2009, Ernie Els and his wife Liezl established the Els for Autism Foundation shortly after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. The Els have donated millions of their own money, and through dedicated fundraising they opened the first components of The Els Center of Excellence. The Center, based in Jupiter, Fla., serves the local, national and international autism communities and is game-changing resource in the field. To date, his programs have served over 3,647 individuals with Autism and their families from 13 countries, focusing on education, global outreach, therapy, research, recreation and adult services. Els’ programs extend to the links as well with his innovative Ernie Els #GameON Autism Golf program, which encourages participants to learn golf skills while practicing specific autism learning concepts including communication, emotional regulation, motor and social skills.

• Larry Fitzgerald: Following a long tradition of community service in his family, giving back is part of Larry Fitzgerald’s ethos. Through the Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund, he has supported middle and high schools in Minneapolis and Phoenix to fund books, science supplies and field trips, and helps provide the latest technology to disadvantaged youth who otherwise would not have access. He helped to outfit the entire Minneapolis Parks and Recreation youth football program where Larry first played football as a young child with 1,000 new helmets. In honor of his late mother, Fitzgerald has become a champion of breast cancer research and has used his play on the field to highlight breast cancer awareness and prevention efforts. He also has teamed with a number of international aid foundations, helping fit hundreds of hearing aids for those in need all over Africa, as well as working on irrigation systems and digging wells in local communities.

• Mark Giordano: Undrafted but now at the forefront of the Calgary Flames as team captain, Mark Giordano never loses sight of what got him to the NHL, and consistently exhibits conviction, integrity and bravery in his long-history of giving back to the community. His 5 for 5 initiative provided the funding to build five homes with Habitat for Humanity in Ethiopia, India, Kenya, the Philippines and the Calgary area. In 2014, he and his wife Lauren launched Team Giordano, which has helped 1,900 students in four high-needs Calgary schools. The program not only provides resources, including computers, supplies and their own “Gio Journals” to track students’ progress, but promotes physical fitness, academics, and the positive behaviors that lead to success in life. And the program is working—with one school reporting that 88% of students are reading at grade level thanks to the literacy resources provided courtesy of Team Giordano. Additionally, he stands behind other important community causes, including stamping out discrimination based on sexual orientation and support of mental health awareness.

• Curtis Granderson: Curtis Granderson’s passion is deeply rooted in opening windows of opportunity for youth minorities in underserved communities. He noticed a common obstacle shared by many of these youth – hunger. Since 2012, Granderson has hosted a month-long campaign every November entirely dedicated to solving the food insecurity epidemic. First in Chicago, the Grand Giving program later expanded to New York City, and then nationally in 2017. Since its inception, the campaign has provided more than 3.5 million meals for hungry youth across the country. Additionally, in an effort to get kids active and enjoy the game of baseball, Granderson helped build a new stadium on the campus of his alma mater, the University of Illinois at Chicago, which enables 20,000 inner-city kids the opportunity to play each year. 

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