Carmelo Anthony is known for many things: three-time Olympic gold medalist, NBA legend spanning almost two decades, entrepreneur, activist and philanthropist, just to name a few. The role he credits for making all this possible, though, is his time as a youth basketball player at his community center.
“My story … started at the courts at the rec centers of my neighborhoods in Red Hook and Baltimore, with the friendships I’ve made there, and the mentors I’ve had along the way,” Anthony said in a statement from the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation. “And I like to do my part in sharing my story and encouraging the younger generations that anything is possible.”
Anthony is one of 10 Nike/Jordan athletes partnering with the foundation to champion youth sports through a program called 75for75.
The initiative commemorates Dick’s Sporting Goods’ 75th anniversary by offering 75 grants for $75,000 each to youth sports programs across the United States. Each of the partner athletes nominated an organization to receive a grant. Throughout the summer, the athletes are sharing stories of how youth sports changed their lives through videos on Dick’s Sporting Goods’ website, YouTube and social media channels.
Nine athletes across various sports join Carmelo Anthony in the campaign, including women's soccer star Alex Morgan, NFL wide receiver Davante Adams, Olympic track and field runner Athing Mu, and MLB All-Star alum Mike Trout.
“We believe everyone, and especially every kid, deserves a chance to play and experience all that sports provide,” Aimee Watters, executive director of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation, told TriplePundit. “We selected these 10 athletes because they each have a passion for uplifting the next generation of athletes and their communities.”
The 75for75 grants are part of the foundation’s larger message that “sports change lives.”
“In addition to physical and mental health benefits, sports have the power to change our perspectives, our character and our communities for the better,” Watters said. “But not everyone has the same access to play.”
Financial limitations are some of the most common barriers to entry for youth sports. As of fall 2022, families spent an annual average of $882 for one child’s primary sport, according to the Aspen Institute. Registration fees alone cost an average of $168.
Most local youth sports programs are run by volunteers and have extremely limited budgets. And 63 percent of public school sports’ budgets are stagnant or decreasing, according to a 2019 report by the Rand Corporation.
To help bridge the funding gap and get more young people involved in sports, Dick’s will distribute more than $5.6 million in 2023 through the 75for75 program.
Westinghouse Academy received the first grant. The high school is located in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood, approximately 30 miles from the Dick’s Sporting Goods headquarters in Coraopolis.
Since then, grants were awarded to high schools in Mississippi, New Jersey and North Carolina, a figure skating program in Harlem, New York, and a soccer club in Massachusetts, among others. Each recipient chooses how to use the $75,000 to best address their athletes’ needs, whether that is staffing, facilities, equipment, tutoring, nutrition, programming or something else.
And, as Anthony said, the opportunities provided by these funds will extend far beyond the court or field.
“I know firsthand just how vast the impact that sports can have on a young person's life,” he said. “By providing these grants, we can give these kids from similar backgrounds and stories like mine the opportunities and support to overcome adversity and believe in themselves through the power of sports.”
Image credits: Nina Lawrenson/peopleimages.com via Adobe Stock and DICK'S Sporting Goods
Megan is a writer and editor interested in sharing stories of positive change and resilience. She is the author of Show Up and Bring Coffee, a book highlighting how to support friends who are parents of disabled children. You can follow her at JoyfulBraveAwesome.com.