As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the globe, athletes across sports have been some of the first to act to help their local communities.
Ranging from Milwaukee Bucks and NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo pledging $100,000 to staff at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee to Zion Williamson saying that he will cover the salaries of all of the workers at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans for the next 30 days to Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer hosting a waffle ball game for charity with other MLB players, dozens of athletes have made both public and private donations to help those that have been affected by the outbreak.
Noticing this across social media as well as in conversations with other athletes, managers, and agents, Octagon Executive Vice President David Schwab said he saw an opportunity to help further mobilize the efforts across the sports industry.
“There had been an unbelievable outpouring of donations from athletes to arena employees and food banks, but all I kept hearing was people asking how could they do more, and how could they do something as a community,” Schwab said.
Thus the idea for Athletes for Relief was born, a fundraising tool for athletes hosted by platform PledgeIt.org.
“I’ve always been impressed by the sports and entertainment world and how it rallies around tough times with things like telethons, concerts, exhibition matches, or personal fundraising drives to provide awareness and raise funds,” Schwab said. “This is an effort to give that community an online sharing platform in addition to everything else that they’re doing.”
Since launching the effort on Saturday, Athletes for Relief has had more than a 100 different athletes, coaches, and sports personalities offer up items for fans to win in exchange for at least a $25 donation.
Athletes that have donated items include Stephen Curry, David Ortiz, Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Chris Paul, the Harlem Globetrotters, and Rory McIlroy.
“There are so many things people can do to support those affected right now. Big or small, every donation or act of service goes a long way,” Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne, who is offering a signed jersey, said in an email. “It’s been amazing to see all the donations made to the Athletes for Relief initiative so far, but this is just the start.”
All of the funds raised will be directed to the Center of Disaster Phhilantrophy’s COVID-19 Response Fund. As the auctions don’t close until April 6, how much money has been raised thus far continues to increase – there are several auctions that have raised over $1,000 each.
Schwab, who noted the effort is aiming to include all of the industry, said that one of the things that have impressed him thus far had been the number of athletes who have reached out to have their items included after seeing a post about the effort about it on social media.
“Our goal is simply to get as many athletes to participate as possible so that we can raise as much money and increase awareness as possible,” he said.