We see plenty from professional athletes about how glamorous and fancy their lives can be. We see Instagram posts full of exotic vacations, Snapchat’s full of fancy car pics, and TikTok’s involving fancy dinners.
But all athlete’s money doesn’t always go to extravagance and excess. Some professional athletes find it important to give back to causes that mean something to them. Maybe it’s schools, or disease, or hunger. Some athletes just love to give back to those less fortunate.
In this time of global crisis, athletes such as Zion Williamson, and Kevin Love have given their own money to help support the people in their industry.
“Athletes for COVID-19 Relief” is a fund that has started where athletes have donated memorabilia to auction off to help those affected by the global pandemic gripping our world. The Olympic gold medal winning swimmer, Nathan Adrian donated one of his racing suits. Women’s World Cup winner Rose Lavelle has donated a signed jersey.
You can go to AthletesRelief.org for more information.
Here we’ve put together a list of athletes who are shy about donating money and time to causes they find important. We all need a little extra good in our lives right now, so take a few minutes and read about some stars using their wealth and platform for good.
Stephen Curry is one of the most beloved star athletes in the world due to his down-to=earth persona and generosity. Curry and his wife Ayesha have become one of sport’s power couples in the last few years, and it’s easy to see why.
In 2017, Curry donated over $100,000 to Hurricane Harvey relief. In 2019, he donated enough money to establish a golf team at Howard University. In 2018, Steph gave the wife of a golfer $25,000 as she fought cancer.
Sure, Ronda Rousey has made a career out of breaking people down. But her philanthropic side shows that’s just an occupational hazard. Far from her WWE persona, she sows she cares about people when she’s not putting them in headlocks.
Rousey’s big push is for mental health initiatives. Throughout the years she’s donated portions of her merchandise revenue towards various mental health causes. She also fed over 100,000 people through a quiz-based drive that had sponsors donate 10 grains of rice for every correct answer.
You know JJ Watt as the fearsome defensive end of the Houston Texans. You may have even seen him hosting Saturday Night Live recently. But did you know what Watt cares the most about is helping people?
He lifted Houston on his shoulders after Hurricane Harvey. He raised over $37 million to build more than 1,100 homes and nearly 1,000 child cares and after school centers. Much of the money came from himself, but he used his platform as a celebrity to help raise the rest.
LeBron James may be the most well-known philanthropist on this list. The LeBron James Family Foundation has done incredible work over the years, but James took it to the next level with his iPromise School.
James started the school in his hometown of Akron to help some of the lowest-performing students in the city. Graduates of the school will receive free tuition to the University of Akron upon graduation. That’s thanks in part to the Lebron James Family Foundation and its partners.
When Serena Williams completed her comeback with her first major title in over three years, she donated her prize money to the people that cheered her on to victory. She gave that $43,000 she earned for winning the Australian Open to the relief fund for the Australian bushfires.
This wasn’t the first time Williams has done something great out of the goodness of her heart as Williams has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for years and continues to work through that foundation.
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the richest and best soccer players on the planet. But coming from a humble beginning has left Ronaldo with a desire to give back to those in need. He has made a habit of auctioning off individual awards he has won, which has led to $1.5 million going to schools in war-torn Gaza and $700,000 going to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Those are just a couple of the organizations Ronaldo has help raise money for, but he has also given his own money to help charities, disaster-relief efforts, and individuals. In 2014 Ronaldo paid for a Spanish 10-month old’s brain surgery that would have cost his family $83,000
Tom Brady, the quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (that felt really weird), has been known for using his star power to get people donating to charities. He has been the face of the Best Buddies charity that has raised more than $20 million for their cause.
However, Brady and his wife Gisele Bundchen have also been known to open up their checkbooks and give to those in need. After Hurricane Harvey, Brady gave $100,000 of his own money to JJ Watt’s hurricane relief fund.
John Cena is a Make-a-Wish legend. The WWE star turned actor hold the record for most “wishes” fulfilled at over 600. Now that’s a hero. It’s not just his time that he gives away either.
In 2019, Cena donated $500,000 of his own money to help firefighters battling the devastating and historic California wildfires. Later in the year, he announced plans to match up to $1 million in donations to help prevent suicide among military veterans. Yes, John Cena, we can see you.
Drew Brees isn’t from New Orleans, but he has adopted the city as his own. He’s strolled into town at a time when the city needed someone to look up to most. His time with the Saints has helped lift a city out of one of the most devastating events our country has seen.
But it’s his off the field work that has helped the most. In 2019, Brees donated $250,000 to help build a school in the city. His Brees Dream Foundation has contributed over $33 million to charities around the world.
Michael Phelps is now the most famous and decorated Olympian of all-time. He’s wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. But it wasn’t always that way. In 2008, when Phelps earned his first $1 million sponsor bonus he didn’t go splash the cash on unnecessary things.
No, Phelps launched the Michael Phelps Foundation. The organization partners with the Special Olympics and the Boys and Girls Club to give thousands of kids swimming lessons. They also teach water safety classes and healthy lifestyle training.
Larry Fitzgerald’s philanthropic initiatives come from the heart. In 2003, the great Cardinals wide receiver lost his mother to breast cancer. From then on he has been committed to the fight against the disease.
In October of 2011, Fitzgerald donated $10,000 towards researching the disease for every touchdown he scored. He also donated $1,000 for every catch he made and 10 cents for every new Twitter follower. If you’ve followed the career of Fitzgerald at all, you know that was a ton of money. He launched the First Down Fund, which focuses on breast cancer research and awareness as its prime mission.
Eldrick “Tiger” Woods is one of the richest athletes in the history of sports. Due to that and his incredible global star power, Woods has launched the Tiger Woods Foundation, which supports at-risk youth.
Beyond that Woods has donated his winning from the Chevron World Challenge every year since the event started in 1999. During the 2000’s, Woods donated winnings from two PGA events to the foundation. That totaled over $12 million by 2011 alone.
Eli Manning’s philanthropic activities began in 2010, with a $1 million donation to the Ole Miss Scholarship Program. It’s the alma mater of both he and his wife, so giving back to the school made sense. But that was just the beginning for Eli.
Throughout the years Manning has supported at least 9 charities and donated $2.5 million for the Eli Manning Children’s Clinics. This children’s clinic is at the Blair E Baston Hospital for Children in Mississippi.
We’ll overlook Carlos Beltran’s alleged role in the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal to highlight some of the good things Beltran has done. We should all hope to be judged not by the worst thing we’ve done but by the entirety of our actions, right?
When Hurricane Maria destroyed his homeland of Puerto Rico, Beltran stepped up to the plate. He launched a fundraiser by donating $1 million of his own money to the cause. That’s a home run, Carlos.
Chris Long has a history of donating to charities. In 2017, Long donated half of yearly salary to his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia after the deadly white-nationalist rally in the town. He donated the other half to charities that support educational equality in St. Louis, Boston, and Philadephia, the towns he had played football in.
However, his greatest achievement may be The Waterboys, an organization founded to help bring clean water to the African country of Tanzania. Since 2015, the organization has funded 83 wells in the country.
Colin Kaepernick may be a polarizing figure to many in this country, but he does put his money where his mouth is. The quarterback lost his job in the NFL after taking a knee during the national anthem before games, but unemployment wouldn’t stop Kaepernick.
The quarterback donated over $1 million of his NFL earnings to charities that support social justice and education causes. The guy knows he won’t play again in the NFL, yet he’s still donating. Good for him.
As the most dominant pitcher of his generation, Clayton Kershaw strikes out a lot of batters. In 2011, he came up with an idea to incentivize that greatness a little bit more. He began donating $100 for every batter he struck out.
In 2011 alone, he donated over $24,000 after leading the league in strikeouts. He even tossed in his bonus money to the pot that year to bring the total to over $200,000 in 2011 alone. Kershaw continues this practice nearly a decade later.
Dikembe Mutombo has been a hero to his people in the Congo for decades. Way back in 1997, Mutombo began the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to help improve living conditions in his country. The Foundation completed the building of a hospital in the capital city of Kinshasa in 2006. He had donated over $18.5 million of his own money towards its construction.
For that and other works, Mutombo has been given numerous awards for humanitarianism, such as the Kennedy Citizenship Award and the Presidential Service Award.
In 2014, Russell Wilson started the Why Not You Foundation, which sees Wilson donate much of his time and energy to charitable works. He is often seen visiting children’s hospitals around the country. His foundation supports charities, scholarships and medicals research.
In 2016, Russell Wilson gave the Seattle Children’s Hospital a check for more than $1 million of his own money towards an initiative against cancer. Wilson is definitely of the good guys in the NFL.
Ndamukong Suh may be a bad boy of the NFL on the field, but his actions off the field speak to a different man. Suh has donated $2.5 million to the University of Nebraska for a strength and conditioning program and the scholarship fund.
He also donated $250,000 to his high school to install a new football field. Suh’s charitable work doesn’t stop there as his foundation works to provide children with school supplies, and scholarships to college.
Curtis Granderson never forgot where it all started for him. In 2013, Granderson donated $5 million to the University of Illinois at Chicago, his alma mater. At the time it was the single largest one-time donation to a university by any athlete ever.
That’s quite the gesture from Granderson, who retired in 2020. Granderson’s foundation continues after his retirement to provide vital community resources in his native Chicago. Through Major League baseball, Granderson has been an official and unofficial ambassador of baseball to the African-American community.
NBA swingman Thabo Sefolosha gained international notoriety when his wrongful arrest at the hands of the NYPD caused him to break his leg and miss the NBA playoffs. Sefolosha won a $4 million settlement with the city, and he used a large portion of those funds to support an organization that fund public defenders, called Gideon’s Promise.
It’s a credit to Sefolosha that something good could come out of such an ugly event. The wrongful arrest stemmed from an incident outside a nightclub that left Indiana Pacers forward stabbed. Sefolosha was an innocent bystander in the event.
Kevin Durant may get a bad rap for being vain and self-indulgent, but he’s got a very generous side to him as well. After tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma City in 2013, Durant stepped up to help the community.
You might think his $1 million donations to the Red Cross was a publicity stunt designed to garner goodwill ahead of his planned dash to Golden State, but no. He tried to donate the money anonymously, but the Red Cross outed him. It’s just like Kevin Durant to fail at staying anonymous.
The GOAT is also the GOAT at philanthropy. Michael Jordan has a long list of charities he supports, including Friends of the Children, American Red Cross, Make-a-Wish, NAACP and many more. The list just goes on and on.
In 2017, Jordan donated $7 million to fund two family health clinics due to open in 2020 in Charlotte. He donated $5 million to the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. These are just a handful of the major donations Jordan has made to make the world a little better.
Neymar may best be known for being a soccer player with extravagant haircuts who falls a lot, but he’s also committed to using his platform to improve the lives of others. In his native Brazil, Neymar opened a school called The Instituto Projecto Neymar Jr., which services over 2,400 disadvantaged children.
He has also been important in the fight against Ebola and projects to help bring clean water to parts of Brazil that are lacking that basic need.