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ESPN Reveals Titus O’Neil As A Finalist For The 2021 Sports Humanitarian Awards

It has been quite the year of accolades for WWE Superstar Titus O’Neil. Back in April, O’Neil received the ‘Warrior Award’ at this year’s WWE Hall of Fame ceremony for the work he has done in the community of Tampa Bay. Now ESPN has named him as a finalist for the 2021 Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award.

This puts Titus O’Neil alongside some of the biggest names in sports today including Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of the Kansas City Chiefs, and Layshia Clarendon of the Minnesota Lynx.

The following is a press release regarding the event:

ESPN Reveals Finalists for the 2021 Sports Humanitarian Awards

  • Live Show Hosted by Taye Diggs from The Rooftop at Pier 17 on July 12, with TV Special July 24 at 2 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Introduction of Marvel’s Earth’s Mightiest Athletes; Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award and Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award Return

The seventh annual Sports Humanitarian Awards is a celebration of the impact made by athletes, teams and sports industry professionals who are using sports to make a difference in their communities and throughout the world. This year, the Sports Humanitarian Awards will take place on Monday, July 12 at The Rooftop at Pier 17, located within the Seaport in New York City, with a 90-minute television special airing on Saturday, July 24 at 2 p.m. ET on ABC. The Awards will be hosted by actor and author Taye Diggs, and will feature a performance by Grammy-nominated Cordae, as part of The Undefeated’s Liberated / Music For The Movement Volume 3.

“This past year was unlike any other, and the sports world met the ongoing challenges head on, responding to the vast needs of our communities, while providing hope and inspiration to millions,” said Kevin Martinez, vice president of ESPN Corporate Citizenship. “ESPN and The Walt Disney Company are incredibly proud to recognize these changemakers through this inspiring evening of storytelling.”

This year’s nominees include (see below for descriptions on each award and finalist):

  • Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award presented by Dove Men+Care finalists: Anthony Rizzo (Chicago Cubs), Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (Kansas City Chiefs), Layshia Clarendon (Minnesota Lynx), Titus O’Neil (WWE)
  • Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year finalists: Atlanta Dream (WNBA), Denver Broncos (NFL), New York City FC (MLS), Toronto Blue Jays (MLB)
  • Corporate Community Impact Award finalists: AT&T, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Vertex Pharmaceuticals

New this year, the Sports Humanitarian Awards will introduce Marvel’s Earth’s Mightiest Athletes, a collective of inspiring athletes that mirror Marvel heroes with their extraordinary abilities on the field, and their commitment to making a positive impact off of it. Not only do these honorees reflect the values of Muhammad Ali’s sports humanitarian shown in this year’s awards, but each has delivered for the community in a way that’s aligned with the super-powered spirit of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Additionally, honorees of the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award, Sports Philanthropist of the Year, League Humanitarian Leadership Award and the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Awards, sponsored by Bristol Myers Squibb, will be announced on July 12.

The Awards will once again benefit the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund at the V Foundation for Cancer Research. Additionally, ESPN will donate more than $1 million in charitable contributions on behalf of the award nominees and honorees. To date, $12 million has been donated to the community on behalf of the Sports Humanitarian Awards. 

Multiple sports leagues and/or governing bodies including MLB, MLS, NBA, WNBA, NFL, NHL, PGA TOUR, UFC, USTA and WWE are sponsors of this year’s Sports Humanitarian Awards and have nominated athletes, teams and corporations who are transforming lives and uplifting communities. 

The finalists and winners have been determined by an independent selection committee, which includes: Akilah Carter-Francique, Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change and Associate Professor in African American Studies at San José State University; Adam Fraser, Chief Executive of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation; Nick Keller, Founder and President of Beyond Sport; Donald Lassere, Chicago History Museum President and former CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center; Joanne Pasternack, President and Chief Impact Officer of Oliver+Rose and Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Athletes’ Voices; Sab Singh, Founder of Sports Doing Good and Professor of Sport Management at Farmingdale State College; Caryl Stern, Executive Director of the Walton Family Foundation; and Eli Wolff, Director of the Power of Sport Lab. 

Below are the award descriptions, as well as details about the nominees and honorees for the 2021 Sports Humanitarian Awards.

The Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award is given to an athlete whose continuous, demonstrated leadership has created a measured positive impact on their community through sports. The candidate must embrace the core principles that Muhammad Ali embodied so well, including confidence, conviction, dedication, giving and respect. The winner will be able to direct a $100,000 grant from ESPN to the qualified charity related to the award-winning humanitarian efforts. The finalists will be able to direct a $25,000 grant to the charity related to their award-winning efforts.

The winner will be announced during The 2021 ESPYS on Saturday, July 10. All finalists will be featured during the Sports Humanitarian Awards.

Anthony Rizzo

At the age of 18, Anthony Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He quickly realized that an individual does not battle cancer alone, but rather the whole family fights it together. Just four years after his diagnosis he established the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation (ARFF) to provide critical dollars to support pediatric cancer families. ARFF provides resources to organizations that offer comfort and care to children and their families as they cope with cancer as well as providing direct monetary grants to pay everyday household expenses. Since its inception ARFF has raised more than $13 million. The Chicago Cubs World Series champion launched ARFF’s Hope 44 to connect social workers and grant dollars to families battling cancer to alleviate the financial stress from a child’s cancer treatments. His foundation also supports two oncology child-life specialists through ARFF’s Child Life Fund to reduce anxiety and normalize the hospital experience for both patients and their families. In line with his giving spirit, when the world shut down due to COVID-19, Rizzo mailed 250 care packages with PPE supplies to pediatric cancer patients and their families, donated more than 25,000 masks and delivered more than 10,000 meals to front line workers.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif

Less than three months after winning Super Bowl LIV, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif — the Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Lineman who also is a Medical School Graduate — began fighting COVID-19 on the front lines at a long-term care facility in Quebec, Canada. His conviction to combat a virus the world knew very little about at the onset of the pandemic risked his own personal health and football career. Duvernay-Tardif was the first NFL player to opt out of playing in the 2020 season due to COVID-19, and did so to follow a calling to help medical professionals and give an extra hand to help care for some of the most vulnerable. He worked for eight months as an orderly and properly administered appropriate drug dosages, fed, washed and dressed each patient. The offensive lineman also served on the NFLPA’s COVID-19 task force, where he helped examine different scenarios for the safest measures to put in place when football games returned. Along with playing football and working in healthcare, the Super Bowl Champion created the Laurent Duvernay-Tardif Foundation with his longtime girlfriend, Florence, to ensure both physical activity and creativity are a part of a child’s development and educational success.

Layshia Clarendon

Amidst many state legislations recently being enacted to eliminate the rights of transgender athletes and children, WNBA player Layshia Clarendon courageously announced last fall they are transgender, becoming the first openly transgender and non-binary athlete to compete in the WNBA, as well as the first WNBA athlete to complete a top surgery as an active player. Clarendon’s dedication to advocating for LGBTQIA2+ athletes at every level of play, is shifting the conversation around trans and non-binary athletes, with the hope that one day no member of their community will be discriminated against or kept from sports due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. As the first Vice President of the WNBPA and a founding member of the WNBA’s Social Justice Council, Clarendon is at the forefront of the league’s ground breaking social justice efforts and is tasked with engaging community conversations, advocacy and education on important topics surrounding social justice. They also partnered with grassroots organizations to create strategic messaging to build awareness around Breonna Taylor’s death, police brutality and social injustices, while working with WNBA players to uplift the Say Her Name campaign to fight for visibility and justice for Black women lost to violence and police brutality.

Titus O’Neil

WWE Global Ambassador Titus O’Neil is a positive force as a father, philanthropist and champion of good. A product of sexual assault, O’Neil grew up in poverty, was bullied by others, constantly in trouble for fighting and labeled a “bad kid.” Because of the people who invested in changing the trajectory of his life, O’Neil is dedicated to giving back to the community that supported him and creating positive changes for those in need. In an unprecedented year faced with hardships due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, O’Neil delivered hundreds of healthy food boxes to assist families, veterans and senior citizens. O’Neil also surprised five families in need with a new car and provided leadership to create food baskets and secure toys for more than 40,000 families during the holiday season. Additionally, in June 2020, he organized a multicultural Love Walk in Tampa to unite the community. Due to his outstanding commitment, O’Neil was recently inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as the Warrior Award recipient, an award given to an individual who exhibits unwavering strength and perseverance and who lives life with courage and compassion.

READ MORE: WWE Global Ambassador Titus O’Neil Confirmed As 2020 WWE Hall Of Fame ‘Warrior Award’ Recipient

Are you excited about Titus O’Neil being revealed as a finalist for the 2021 Sports Humanitarian Awards? Do you think he has a chance to win? Let us know your thoughts by sounding off in the comments section below.