Retired NFL player Chris Long and Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire have been honored at the fifth Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards.
Long, whose retirement from football in May ended an 11-year NFL playing career that included winning two Super Bowl titles and the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, was honored with the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian award. He received the award for “his commitment to giving back through strategic, multifaceted efforts,” which attack larger systematic issues.
Long donated his entire salary in 2017 to benefit educational equality and encouraged his fans to join him in the effort, which raised $1.75 million to support St. Louis, Boston and Philadelphia — cities he played in during his career. His Waterboys program has helped more than 225,000 people in East Africa gain access to clean drinking water by building more than 61 water wells to date.
The Chicago Fire was honored with the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year award for its commitment to “address the public school student drop-out rate in Chicago.”
The awards, presented by ESPN and sponsored by the Bristol-Myers Squibb company, were presented Tuesday night at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. ESPN said more than $1 million in net proceeds was raised for The Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund at the V Foundation. To date, $7.5 million has been donated to the community on behalf of the Sports Humanitarian Awards, which recognize those who use the power of sports to make a positive impact on society. ESPN will also make a charitable contribution on behalf of the winners.
Long beat out finalists Reggie Bullock of the Los Angeles Lakers, former US Open tennis champion Sloane Stephens and Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The other sports team category finalists were the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball, Anaheim Ducks of the NHL and New York City Football Club of MLS.
The NHL received the League Humanitarian Leadership Award for its efforts to create the most inclusive experience for the entire hockey community. The league helped develop an on-ice Learn to Play initiative that has introduced more than 50,000 children to the sport at low to no-costs since 2015 and a STEM-based, hockey-themed digital learning platform involving science and math.
Also honored with awards were the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award winners: Jordanian taekwondo champion Lina Khalifeh and the late Purdue University superfan and cancer activist Tyler Trent.
Multiple sports leagues and governing bodies — including MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL, Top Rank, UFC, USTA, WNBA and WWE — nominated athletes, teams and corporations who are transforming lives and uplifting communities.
ESPN will air highlights of the show July 18.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.