(The NFLPA is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)
NFL players are proud to serve their communities in a variety of ways, many of which are not always known to the general public. To shed more light on these frequent acts of kindness, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) created the Community MVP initiative.
Each week during the regular season, the NFLPA honors one active player as its Community MVP for demonstrating a commitment to making a positive impact on their hometown or team city. So far this year, weekly winners Derrick Nnadi, Adam Thielen, Rashaad Coward, and Lonnie Johnson have made a difference by aiding victims of recent tragedies and providing underserved youth with educational resources.
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Each of the 18 honorees receives a $10,000 donation from the NFLPA for their foundation of choice and becomes eligible for the NFLPA Alan Page Community (APC) Award, which is the highest honor that the union can bestow upon a player. Building on the notion that these players serve as superheroes within their communities, the Community MVPs are commemorated with comic-book style illustrations of themselves created by Athlita Comics.
Since its 2014 inception, the initiative has also been supported by a variety of NFLPA partners, including Delta Private Jets, Forever Collectibles and Life Is Good. This year’s supporting partner is Pledge It. The unique sports crowdfunding platform came on board as a way to expand charitable outreach and footprint of Community MVP. Each winner has a Pledge It campaign set up in his name to benefit a cause important to him. In turn, supporters can either pledge a donation based on the player’s on-the-field performances during the season, or contribute a flat donation.
“We’re extremely proud and excited to partner with the NFLPA on this year’s Community MVP Program,” said Todd Smith, Director of Business Development for Pledge It. “The Community MVP Program is a great example of how the NFLPA recognizes and supports the good work that players do off the field, and this truly aligns with our mission at Pledge It. We love that through this partnership, we can play a role in enhancing the visibility and impact of this program, and the philanthropic work of the NFLPA and its players.”
Brandon Parker, who serves as the Communications Manager at NFL Players Association, has headed up the Community MVP project for the last three years.
“At the NFLPA, we make a point of highlighting our player members as more than athletes; they are also community servants, philanthropists and so much more,” Parker said. “The Community MVP program is a great way to drive home that message and the player engagement has been incredible over the last few years.”
Players find a great deal of pride and joy in being named Community MVP, often taking to social media to congratulate one another on their commendable work and the award itself. As a result, not only does the narrative shift surrounding athletes but the lives of those in need are changed for the better as more players continue using their platform for good.
Los Angeles Rams offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth was a Community MVP in 2018 and went on to win the APC Award for the year. Following the November mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, Whitworth donated approximately $60,000 to families of the victims via the Ventura County Community Foundation’s Conejo Valley Victims Fund. Whitworth also auctioned off one of his game jerseys to benefit the American Red Cross Southern California Wildfire Relief fund last season.
“This is something that is so special to players because of all the community involvement we have,” Whitworth said. “We are all winners if we make a difference in our community because it’s not about us; it’s about something much bigger than us. What makes our players union and this program so special is the ability to make a change in other communities.”
At a time when it can be difficult to see the full extent of humanity’s capacity for kindness, the NFLPA is choosing to bring the focus to players’ good works with initiatives like Community MVP.