Sports stars generally get a bad wrap for being selfish, arrogant and putting themselves first. Although there’s also plenty who have set up a foundation in their own name.
We’ve found the legends who have gone a step further, made a bigger contribution to not only their sport, but to communities and people who really need support. They are involved with charities, worthy causes, and have proven themselves truly selfless.
Here are 15 sporting icons who we salute for being bloody good people who have made the World a better place.
Ladies and gentlemen...
John Cena is the most requested athlete by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, having made the dreams come true for over 500 disadvantaged or terminally ill children.
Cena also plays a key role with the Susan G. Komen organization to raise funds and awareness for women battling breast cancer.
Terminally ill Bradley Lowery has become one of the most recognised and loved faces of Premier League football. The Sunderland fan was due to appear as a mascot for the club he follows but wasn’t well enough to walk onto the pitch, so England striker Jermain Defoe carried him.
Since when the boys have literally become best mates. Defoe even arranged a superhero Sixth birthday party for him and brought more Sunderland players along for the day. JD was also alongside Bradley when he won a ‘Children of Courage’ award and the two hang out frequently, even both families have become close.
And when Defoe walked out for his England recall, he took his best mate with him out on the pitch...
His Warrick Dunn Foundation has helped more than 100 single-parent families in the towns closest to where the Gridiron player grew up in Florida to be able to buy their own homes. A genuine life-changer.
A mainly unheard of, unsung, superstar who pushed the boundaries of what a human can take in the 1976 Olympics. The Japanese gymnast broke his knee during the floor exercise but continued on(!) to the pommel horse, where he scored a 9.5(!!) and the rings, where his remarkable 9.7(!!!) left his already-broken knee dislocated and ripped ligaments down his right leg.
However, it also earned his team the gold medal, which is all he cared about.
On-field Goodes won it all – two premierships and two Brownlow medals, four-time All-Australian and the Rising Star.
Off-field Goodes was recognised for his work with the indigenous community of Australia by being rewarded as the Australian of the Year in 2014.
Together with former teammate Michael O’Laughlin, the two formed the GO Foundation (Goodes O’Laughlin Foundation) that endeavours, through relationships with Australian corporations, schools and universities, to provide a brighter future for indigenous Australians.
Whilst not a household name, this man certainly should be. To this day, Healy is Australia’s only ever Olympic gold medallist to be killed in action in a theatre of war.
But that’s not why we have him in the list of the most selfless sport stars.
Having already won a gold medal in the 4x100m relay, Healy forfeited his right to an individual gold with a tremendous act of selflessness.
Duke Kahanamoku, the legendary Hawaiian waterman, was clearly the fastest 100m swimmer in the field but thanks to a monumental stuff-up by the US team's officials, he was told the wrong time for his semi-final and subsequently missed the race, meaning he was disqualified and Healy became the fastest qualifier and runaway favourite for the gold medal.
Rather than feasting on his good fortune, Healy begged Olympic officials to allow Kahanamoku (and another two Americans) to swim a separate semi-final with their times deciding whether they would be included in the final.
Kahanamoku became the fastest qualifier and then took the gold by more than a body length from Healy. He raised the Australian's arm as if they'd just finished a world heavyweight boxing bout.
A figure of fun for many in UK soccer, Hill may be remembered for his pointy chin and bumbling commentaries, but he was a crucial figure in the history of the sport. As player, coach and Club Chairman, he represented the players passionately, bringing an end to the 20 pounds-a-week maximum wage (Wayne Rooney who now earns over $400,000 per week certainly has a lot to thank him for) and getting fair remuneration for the players from a sport that was starting to earn a fortune from their endeavours.
Not only is ‘Pigeon’ one of Australia’s greatest ever pace bowlers, he not only coped with immense loss of his first wife Jane to breast cancer, he paid her the ultimate respect by founding the Jane McGrath Foundation.
The Jane McGrath Foundation has since gone on to raise millions towards breast cancer research.
Following in the footsteps of his great mate Glen McGrath, former Australian cricket captain and batting superstar Ponting has also put his status and wealth to good use, setting up the Ricky Ponting Foundation.
Since 2008 the foundation has raised a stack of money to fund essential services for young cancer sufferers within Australia, whilst providing financial assistance for their family.
Sometimes selflessness in sport isn’t exemplified in grandiose way, and Collingwood Football Club defender Simon Prestigiacomo exemplifies that notion.
Two days out of the 2010 Grand Final against St Kilda, ‘Presti’ ruled himself out of selection, picking up a niggling injury that hadn’t been seen by the coaching staff.
The Pies went on to win the premiership in a replay, and then-Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse claims it is the most selfless act in football he has ever seen.
The Pies now honour Prestigiacomo by handing his number 35 to the club’s top draft pick every season.
CR7 was named the World’s Most Charitable Sports Star by Dosomething.org, who commented “He raised money for various causes including donating more than $83,000 to a 10-year-old fan in need of brain surgery and giving more than $165,000 to fund a cancer centre in Portugal that treated his mother.”
He acts as ambassador for numerous charities, especially representing the young. He aided Indonesian tsunami victims and donated $8 million to help aid efforts after the Nepal earthquake.
Rousey’s foundation does excellent work supporting mental health services with awareness and huge financial contributions. She’s fronted no end of campaigns and influences, from the Free Rice Campaign to the Gompers Judo program.
Tillman was so affected by the events of 9/11 that he turned down a three-year $3.6 million contract offer from the Cardinals to join the US Army. A patriotic act that showed the measure of the man.
When teammate Mourice Stokes became paralysed after a horrific injury in 1958, Twyman took responsibility for becoming Stokes’ legal guardian. Despite having his own career and being just 23-years-old, Twyman adopted the 24-year-old and cared for him for the rest of his life.
What a guy.
Williams is one of the most active UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors, helping to build schools in Africa, and promote access to education in Asia. She is actively involved in no less than 12 charities and dozens of other worthy causes.
And still manages to win Grand Slam events…while pregnant. What a legend.