When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Houston, Texas, the city’s biggest sports star, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, set out to raise $200,000 for Harvey’s victims on the crowdfunding website YouCaring. Less than a week later, he’s already raised nearly $15 million – and counting.
He’s far from alone. His teammate, offensive lineman Jeff Allen, is donating money for every offensive touchdown the team scores this year to the Houston Food Bank. Every NFL team has tweeted out links to Red Cross donations in support of Houston. The Green Bay Packers donated $100,000 to Houston Flood Relief Fund, the Baltimore Ravens donated $1 million, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett announced a campaign in support of Harvey victims. And that’s just the NFL.
You know who hasn’t encouraged people to donate money to relief efforts, or even so much as tweeted out a link to the American Red Cross’s campaign?
President Donald Trump.
Trump did visit Texas this week, but he did not (depite his initial claims) witness any of the devastation first hand, offer any sympathy for those who lost their lives, or promote any of the relief organizations on the ground, which particularly irked Alyssa Mastromonaco, who formerly served as the White House Deputy Chief of Staff for President Obama.
“That moment is a moment to stand there with relief organizations on television and say, ‘Give to these guys,’” Mastromonaco said on the politics podcast Pod Save America this week. “That’s how they raise money. That was one of the most important things President Obama did when we went to these places. We stood with FEMA, and the Red Cross, and local food kitchens and said, ‘These people are helping. Give them money.’”
In the past week, Trump has pardoned a racist convict, yammered about TV ratings, bragged about crowd sizes, attacked Hillary Clinton, marveled at HISTORIC rain falls, angrily tweeted about fake news, and talked about cutting taxes for the country’s wealthiest people. Oh, and he’s hocked Trump-branded hats — as a fundraiser for his own campaign, not for Harvey victims. So, you know, he’s been busy.
Thankfully, the sports world — which doesn’t often play the role of “good guy” these days — has been stepping up.
In the NBA, the owner of the Houston Rockets is donating $10 million to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, and the owner of the Miami Heat is donating $2 million to relief efforts. In the MLB, the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers have pledged $4 million and $1 million, respectively, to relief efforts. The Arizona Diamondbacks raised over $370,000 for Harvey relief.
The Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League have raised more than $10,000, and have partnered with the Houston Dash and Major League Soccer to donate a combined $1 million to relief efforts. Proceeds from Sunday’s Dash match against the Seattle Reign will go to Harvey victims, and the Dynamo and Dash opened their stadium for physical donations, such as baby food, diapers, wheelchairs, and toiletries.
— MLB (@MLB) August 30, 2017
WNBA players from around the league, including Houston natives Brittney Griner and Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, have been holding fundraisers and donating to campaigns. The Washington Mystics of the WNBA have teamed up the the Red Cross to send care packages to victims, and are donating a portion of ticket sales from their game on Friday night to relief efforts. The NHL and the NHLPA have donated $200,000 to the Red Cross. College basketball teams across the NCAA are donating clothing and shoes to those displaced, and the list just goes on and on and on.
In these troubling times, sports organizations big and small are providing a much-needed dose of leadership, empathy, and generosity.
Watt, particularly, has been paving the way. He’s been talking to those who survived Hurricane Katrina to figure out what went right and wrong in the relief efforts there, and he’s also being very transparent about where the donations are going.
“My first phase is what I’m doing is this weekend, my teammates and I have semi-trucks rolling in from out of town that we filled up,” Watt told CNN. “We have about nine semi-trucks that are going to come to town. And we have those all filled with stocks, supplies, water, food, clothing, everything. So, we’re going to give that out this weekend.”