NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell once wrote “…the game of football is about more than making plays on the field… Our commitment to fans and the communities that support us does not end when the final seconds tick off the game clock.” Professional sports purports itself to be hard hitting action and ruthless business dealings but there is a softer side making a difference across the nation and around the world. Major sports organizations establish initiatives to uplift communities and use part of their profits to positively impact kids, the environment, struggling adults, the medical community and more. Consider a paid or volunteer position with one of these community-centric organizations run by the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.

NBA Cares is the National Basketball Association’s primary community outreach organization. It covers a wide swath of social issues – health and wellness, family development, education and youth life enhancement. These tent poles of service allow the league and its thirty teams to focus their monetary contributions and raise awareness in key areas of need. Philanthropic giving is important; the league and its teams have raised over $225 million for its various charity partners. Part of the uniqueness behind NBA Cares is its star power. The ability to deploy stars like Tim Duncan, Kevin Love and Dwight Howard has provided over 2.6 million hours of hands-on service to communities around the world. The NBA works with an ever growing number of community partners – American Red Cross, UNICEF, Special Olympics, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Make-A-Wish – to leverage charity and service professionals and make a difference in a variety of areas. Its year-round service programs – Coaches for Kids, NBA/WNBA FIT, NBA Green, Basketball without Borders, Kia Community Assist – are developed to include all NBA teams, making it possible to touch all ends of the world. NBA Cares shines a light on the do-gooder side of the National Basketball Association but, more importantly, it allows the league a mechanism to use its dollars, star power and hands-on service time in a way that nurtures kids, promotes healthiness and props up the family dynamic.

NFL and the Community is the National Football League’s service organization created to give back nationally, through local teams and individually by owners, players, coaches and team personnel. The NFL is the most powerful professional sports organization in America. It wields its might to make ungodly sums of money for itself and its business partners. But, under philanthropic leadership, it has developed into one of the most charitable leagues out there; its nonprofit organization, the NFL Foundation, distributed more than $18 million in 2013 alone towards health initiatives, safety efforts and youth football programs. In a letter from the Commissioner, Roger Goodell outlines its three main causes: fighting childhood obesity, battling breast cancer and showing appreciation for our military. Through NFL PLAY 60 the league’s athletes conduct community outreach, promoting the health and wellness of today’s youth. Commercials are aired to promote sixty minutes of active play every day. A simple but effective message. And resources are developed to help schools motivate children to be active and learn why a healthy lifestyle is important. NFL Pink – A Crucial Catch is the league’s breast cancer awareness campaign. The NFL has raised over $4.5 million for its partner, the American Cancer Society, since 2009 with much of those dollars now going into the American Cancer Society’s Community Health Advocates National Grants for Empowerment (CHANGE) program. CHANGE provides crucial outreach and breast cancer screenings to women in underserved communities. A Crucial Catch raises a lot of money to fight a horrible disease. It also allows individuals to tell their stories, adding another way to raise awareness in the community. The NFL’s Salute to Service campaign works closely with USAA to provide a direct face-to-face thank you to military personnel as well as raise dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project, the Pat Tillman Foundation and USO. While the money enriches programs that help current and former service men and women, the trips athletes take overseas to personally thank the troops are unforgettable. The National Football league and its NFL Foundation make a difference in subtle and obvious ways on a daily basis.

MLB Community brings together league and team community programs and initiatives. Unlike the NFL, Major League Baseball has a truly global footprint with relevance in nearby Duluth, Minnesota and Albany, New York as well as the distant Dominican Republic and the isle of Japan. Promoting baseball with today’s youth is a major part of MLB Community. Its outreach is global and diverse, touching inner city youth with its Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program and using its Baseball Tomorrow Fund to promote the growth of youth baseball and softball at home and around the world. Diversity in sports is embedded within the foundation of Major League Baseball. From Jackie Robinson Day to Roberto Clemente Day, MLB Community prides itself on a historically diverse pool of athletes and its small part in breaking color barriers in America. With its Autism Awareness, Drug-Free Campaign, 4-ALS and Stand Up to Cancer initiatives, the league takes preventative wellness and disease fighting seriously. And its elaborate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations keep the idea of family top-of-mind for baseball fans everywhere. MLB Community and its MLB Charities create an environment where athletes, coaches, owners and team personnel recognize the importance of giving back to help those in need.

NHL Community brings together a variety of community focuses important to National Hockey League leadership. The league’s official youth development program is Hockey is for Everyone. Unlike basketball, hockey is a pricey sport to pick up; the program provides support to the nonprofit youth hockey organizations that make affordable play possible. With its Hockey Fights Cancer campaign, the NHL has raised money and awareness for the fight against cancer since 1999. The league considers this battle its most important initiative and has helped raise over $12.8 million to fund cancer research institutions, player charities and children’s hospitals along with several other cancer organizations. It works with well-respected organizations like The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Prostate Cancer Canada to help make an impact. Much like professional football’s NFL PLAY 60, the NHL leverages its work through Let’s Move to promote health and wellness with today’s youth. In a society where childhood obesity is an increasing problem and state and federal funding is waning, the NHL is stepping forward to actively encourage youth exercise and curb youth violence with action and dollars. Its motto is to learn, compete, grow… and have fun. NHL Community is forming into a one stop shop to promote community outreach amongst the league’s teams and players.  

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