It is the dreams of millions around the world to one day become a star athlete, but this is a dream that only a tiny percentage of people get to live. These stars get to play the sport that they love each day, and they earn gigantic sums through their salary and endorsements. This enables them to lead a lavish lifestyle, but most athletes realize how fortunate they are and make a point to give back. According to dosomething.org, these are the 10 most charitable athletes in the world right now, all of whom have helped to improve the world around them.
10. Richard Sherman
Richard Sherman is famous for his trash talking and arrogance (as well as being perhaps the best in his position), and this arrogance makes him a much hated figure by many NFL fans. Although on the field he may not seem like the nicest guy, he is actually very aware of the world around him and uses his fame and fortune to do good in the world. The Super Bowl champ has set up a family foundation, called Blanket Coverage, to help students reach their potential. This provides students in low-income communities with clothing and school supplies to help them all achieve their goals. Sherman decided to set this foundation thanks to an inspirational speech from Magic Johnson when he was a student himself. So just remember this next time you are screaming at your television sets when the Seahawks are on.
9. Mo’ne Davis
14-year-old Mo’ne Davis has taken the world by storm after appearing in the 2014 Little League World Series, as she became the first girl to win and pitch a shutout in series history. She is only the eighteenth girl to play, the sixth to get a hit and the first African-American girl to play. Additionally, she is the first Little League player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and because of all this she has had a gigantic impact on the sports world. It is not just the sporting world she has had an impact on, however; she is using her fame to help other girls have a better chance at the future. This is through designing her own line of sneakers with the proceeds going to the “Because I am a Girl” project, with goals to help four million girls in the developing world out of poverty.
8. Maria Sharapova
The world number two is one of the most famous female athletes of all time, and she is also one of the best paid female athletes (helped by her modeling career and many endorsements). Sharapova is also incredibly charitable and uses her profile and fortune to help those less fortunate in a number of different ways. She has supported 10 different charities and a huge range of causes including poverty, women and AIDS. This year she has volunteered with Variety the Children’s Charity and Sole 4 Shoes. Previously, she has donated $50,000 to those affected by the Beslan school hostage crisis, she has been appointed the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme, and donated $210,000 to UNDP Chernobyl-recovery projects. These are just a few examples of Sharapova’s charitable nature, and it is clear she is a class act both off and on the court.
7. Heather O’Reilly
Heather O’Reilly has had quite the career as a professional soccer player, particularly on the international stage with Team USA. The highly rated midfielder has three Olympic gold medals, and earlier this year she lifted the FIFA Women’s World Cup in a fantastic and memorable competition. It is not just on the pitch where she has had a big impact, however, as O’Reilly has also worked extremely hard to better the lives of girls and women through sports and physical activity, and this has seen her come in 7th place in Athletes Gone Good 2015. This is through her heavy involvement with the Women’s Sports Foundation. It has been quite the year for the Kansas City star, who is a fantastic role model and great example of an athlete who understands the impact that they can have on the world both through playing sports and through their actions.
6. LeBron James
The Cleveland Cavaliers superstar is one of the most popular and recognizable athletes in the world, and he also earns gigantic amounts of money each year through his salary, his lucrative endorsements and a few business ventures. He is the face of the NBA, but you can also add philanthropist to his bow. He has given back an enormous amount to those less fortunate, and this is largely through The LeBron James Family Foundation. The goal of this foundation is to improve the lives of children and young adults through education, and he is also an active supporter of the Boys & Girls Club of America, Children’s Defense Fund and ONEXONE. Additionally, King James has also recently announced that through his foundation, he and the University of Akron will be funding full scholarships for students who complete the foundation’s academic program, which James has been sponsoring for five years.
At just 23 years old, Neymar has had a phenomenal career on the pitch and is only set to improve. The Brazilian has dozens of accolades, and is coming off the back of a historic season, which saw Barcelona win the treble and Neymar form a deadly trio alongside Messi and Suarez. You would expect that many young superstars are not particularly aware of the issues in the world around them, but this is not true of Neymar. He joined FIFA’s “11 Against Ebola” campaign, becoming one of eleven players to raise awareness of the disease and how to combat it, and he also was a part of Waves for Water to bring clean water to Brazil. Additionally, the Brazilian has also recently set up the Neymar Jr. Institute Project, which is an educational and sports complex in Praia Grande.
4. Yuna Kim
Yuna Kim may not be as well known as most of the entries on this list (in Western culture), but there are not many athletes that are more charitable than the South Korean figure skater. She is the first female skater to win the Olympic Games, the World Championships, the Four Continents Championships and the Grand Prix Final. She has set dozens of records, and she has recently decided to retire after earning a silver medal in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games (amidst some controversy with the scoring). She has also served as a goodwill ambassador and fundraiser for UNICEF since 2010, earning her 4th place in Athletes Gone Good 2015. Previously, she has donated her prize money to those affected by the Japanese earthquake, made appeals for the children of Syria and done much, much more for the fantastic foundation. Her continued efforts are to be admired and celebrated.
3. Serena Williams
Serena Williams has been a dominant force in women’s tennis for many years, and she is currently ranked #1 in the world for the sixth time in her career. She just completed her second “Serena Slam” (winning all four majors in a row), and this was after winning Wimbledon for the sixth time. Away from the court she is just as admirable, and she has recently launched the “1 in 11” campaign to extend educational opportunities to marginalized children in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nepal, and continues work as a Goodwill Ambassador. She also has the Serena Williams Foundation which helps many causes, including providing scholarships for underprivileged students in the USA. She has also been involved with various clinics at schools and community centers, as well as shown her support for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Hearts of Gold and many more.
2. John Cena
John Cena is the face of the WWE and a 12-time WWE (World Heavyweight) Champion, and he has also released his own rap album as well as made dozens of TV and film appearances. He is also famous for being a philanthropist, and Cena understands that sometimes it takes more than just money to make a difference in the world. His most notable charitable work is for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, as Cena has granted the most wishes in the foundation’s history. Very recently, he granted his 500th wish after spending the day with Rocco Lanzer, a young boy diagnosed with leukemia. In addition to putting a smile on these kids faces, Cena has also supported organizations such as Susan G. Komen to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer, and through Cena the WWE has raised over $1.5 million since partnering with the organization.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo is famous for being vain, arrogant and extremely rich. Unfortunately, it is not as well known that he is extremely charitable, and the most charitable athlete in the world according to Athletes Gone Good. A few examples of his generous nature include donating $165,000 to fund a cancer center in Portugal, donating over $83,000 to a 10-year-old fan in need of brain surgery, and it is reported that he donated $7.5 million to the Nepal earthquake relief efforts. On top of this, the Real Madrid superstar has also used his profile to raise awareness and funds for a number of different important causes. He has been a global spokesperson for childhood hunger, biodiversity, and obesity, and he was part of FIFA’s “11 Against Ebola” campaign in 2014. He may be arrogant, but there are also countless of examples of his generosity, compassion and awareness of issues in the world.