Last week, ESPN announced the finalists for the 2020 Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award – and Nelson Cruz is one of them. The news release states, “Cruz has transformed the infrastructure of his hometown of Las Matas De Santa Cruz in the Dominican Republic. He has secured a fire engine and an ambulance, built a new police station and contributed wheelchairs and crutches, and he annually brings dentists and optometrists to a local clinic to provide checkups, medicine and eyewear.”
According to ESPN, the award, which is part of the ESPY awards, “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 principals that Muhammad Ali embodied so well, including confidence, conviction, dedication, giving and respect. ” The website notes that the award was previously called the Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award; it was renamed in 2017 to honor Muhammad Ali. (Note that the Muhammad Ali Center has a separate award called the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award.) Previous MLB finalists have included Curtis Granderson (2017) and Yadier Molina (2019).
In addition to the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award, ESPN awards the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award. The Los Angeles Dodgers are again finalists for this award, as they were last year. They were nominated for the 2020 award because of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation’s work to improve education, health care, homelessness, and social justice. The Dodgers have developed “Dodgers Reading Champions,” an online reading program, and the “Dodgers Dreamfields” program, which builds and refurbishes ball fields in underserved communities.
Other MLB teams that have been finalists for the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award are the San Francisco Giants (2016), Chicago White Sox (2017), and Boston Red Sox (2018). The Giants won the award in 2016 for their work with the Junior Giants. The Giants created the Junior Giants in 1991 to help address violence in impoverished neighborhoods in the San Francisco area. The Giants Community Fund supports Junior Giants leagues in Northern California, Nevada, and Oregon, and provides assistance to community programs focused on education, health, and violence prevention.
These are just two of ESPN’s Sports Humanitarian Awards, which have been awarded since 2015. The 2020 ESPYS will be awarded on June 21.