Star athletes receive a lot of criticism from the media and public alike owing to their excessive lifestyles and irresponsible behaviour, but it often goes unnoticed that many commit a significant amount of their time and resources to charitable and community-focused initiatives. Take the Brazilian superstar Neymar for example. Many would criticise Neymar for leaving Barcelona for a record transfer to earn a higher salary at Paris Saint Germain, but Neymar has helped fight against ebola and water contamination in Brazil and has set up an Institute which takes in 2,400 local disadvantaged children to educate them for the future. Such news would be of surprise to most sports fans, a result of the frequent media portrayals and characterisations of star athletes as self-interested, excessive and thoughtless.
The collaboration between Jaz-Z and Ashley Cole to open a new restaurant and bar in London may appear on the surface like any other corporate project run by super star investors. The project however, was set up with the local community firmly at the forefront of both partner’s minds and so they promised to offer first option on jobs to talented, long-term unemployed young people. The initiative, negotiated alongside NVA’s Chris Nathaniel, also pledged to give a percentage of the profits made to local communities to booster sports and music projects in the area.
One of the greatest athletes of all time, Serena Williams is a champion on and off the court and has been involved with countless charitable causes and endeavours over her long career. As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, she has helped build schools in Africa, promote education for children in Asia and has consistently fought against breast cancer.
Another name that deserves mention here is the NBA All-Star Lebron James. James raised over $5 million dollars alone for charity from the televised announcement of his transfer to the Miami Heat in 2010 and has since set up The Lebron James Family Foundation, which has sent thousands of local kids to college for free, adding up to donations well in excess of $50 million.
The final inclusion on this list may be the most surprising, Christiano Ronaldo. Despite being portrayed as arrogant and selfish, Ronaldo frequently donates huge sums to causes close to his heart, memorably giving £200,000 to the cancer centre of the Portuguese hospital that treated his mother.