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IMG World Congress: The Role Of Philanthropy In Sports

Hawk, Mutombo Discuss
Philanthropy's Role In Sports

Earlier this year, skateboarding icon Tony Hawk, in partnership with Athletes for Hope, began a discussion among his professional peers centered on the question “Do athletes have an obligation to give back?” Contemporaries from Steve Nash to Mia Hamm responded, largely through the use of Twitter, that the answer was yes, but perhaps “opportunity” was a better word than “obligation.” This was the focus of the final panel Thursday at the IMG World Congress of Sports presented by SportsBusiness Journal/Daily, titled “The Role of Philanthropy in Sports,” featuring Hawk; NBA Global Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo; Agassi Graf Holdings and Andre Agassi Foundation for Education CEO Steve Miller; and Team-Up for Youth Chair Wally Haas. Panelists agreed that athletes have a unique platform for philanthropic work, and that often what first is seen as an opportunity later becomes a passion that extends far beyond an athlete’s professional career. “The power of sports is viewed larger than life in this world,” Haas said. “I have seen more athletes who maybe thought they were going to do this because ‘this might be good for my image,’ but when they see the impact, they get so much out of it.” Mutombo said the message that should appeal to athletes -- and society in general -- is that everyone has the chance to contribute to the image and development of our future society. “We are going to be judged by our future generations,” he said. There was a consensus that sports-driven philanthropy is just getting started. “We’re still just scratching the surface,” Haas said. “This is such a powerful medium to make great change.”

BOTTOM LINE CONTRIBUTIONS: For sports teams, leagues and corporations, charitable work is not just about giving back, panelists said. It can help your bottom line, too. Haas, whose family owned the A's during the '80s and ‘90s, said he instilled the importance of community involvement in the entire organization. “With (athletes’) community involvement, we started to be known for -- even if we had a bad season -- that these are good guys.” He added, “Corporate sponsors started to want to partner with us because they wanted their brand to be affiliated with a community program.” Miller said that Andre Agassi’s charitable work has helped differentiate him from other popular athletes and drive corporations to partner with his foundation. “The corporation wants to make a positive public statement as well,” Miller said. “When you have an athlete that shows clear passion and differentiation, you then have a cross-section that provides a platform for corporations to be more active.”

MORE FROM WORLD CONGRESS: For more from the IMG World Congress of Sports, please check our free page for updates.

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