It’s been a rocky year for America’s most popular professional sport. The NFL is used to receiving a lot of attention, but this year, coverage of the league has had little to do with what’s happening on the field.As the season opened, the NFL’s most visible star, Tom Brady, was tied up in a lengthy court battle over the PSI of footballs. Brady losing that battle resulted in having to serve a four-game suspension. While this was going on, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick caused a major controversy by protesting the national anthem.
The controversies off the field may have contributed to the NFL’s worst TV ratings in the league’s history. Needless to say, it’s been a rough year for the NFL. However, not everything going on off the field has been negative. In fact, some NFL players are teaming up with combat veterans for a cause we can all get behind.
From Fox News:
When NFL players and NFL fans join forces with wounded military veterans … lives get saved and mountains get conquered.Super Bowl champion and NFL defensive end Chris Long started the Waterboys initiative to bring together players and fans from across the NFL to build wells and provide clean water to those in need.
Why wells? Clean water can mean the difference between life and death. Every 90 seconds a child dies due to water-related diseases, according to WHO research. This is just one of many alarming statistics. Access to clean water saves lives.
“The clean water crisis demands that we act now. Clean water …ultimately saves lives and completely transforms communities,” Long explained, in a statement emailed to Fox News. “Waterboys aims to do what is necessary to chip away at the problem.”This year the team provided clean water to the legendary Masai people. To date, the Waterboys foundation has delivered clean water to over 66,000 people and funded 17 sustainable, solar-powered wells in Tanzanian communities. The goal is to install 32 wells representing each of the 32 NFL teams.
NFL players have worked with some of America’s bravest heroes on the project. The result has been a new level of respect for what our brave men and women do for our country:Major Ivan Castro was blinded in combat when a mortar round struck his sniper’s post. Mangled by shrapnel and terribly burned, his lungs had collapsed, one eye was blown out and the other eye damaged by shrapnel. Yet Castro fearlessly battled back and became the only blind officer serving in Special Forces.
Former San Diego Charger Nick Hardwick described his experience teaming up with Castro: “I couldn’t really comprehend my role in the climb with the veterans until my number was called to help lead Ivan up to the summit,” he told Fox News. “It was a powerful experience being with Ivan and being his eyes on a dangerous mountain.”
The initiative shows what is possible when NFL players actually take action, rather than seek attention to distract from their on-the-field struggles. It also highlights just how amazing our military members are, choosing to continue to serve for the greater good, even after being wounded in combat.
The Waterboys project is a welcome distraction for a league that’s been making news for all the wrong reasons. While it won’t improve ratings, it will improve the lives of millions. It’s hard to beat that.
[Note: This post was authored by Michael Lee. Follow him on Twitter @UAMichaelLee]