With Black History Month just around the corner and National Girls & Women in Sports Day coming up on February 6, we take a look back a the great Mabel Fairbanks. Click the link below to learn more about the U.S. Figure Skating and International Women’s Sports Hall of Famer.
By: Matthew Rodriguez
As the 2018 LA84 Foundation Summit came to a close, emcee Sal Masekela invited one final guest.
Olympic gold medalist and five-time NBA All-Star Paul George came to the stage to talk about how being outdoors, playing basketball, fishing and camping helped him grow as a person.
“I’m country at heart,” George said. “I love camping. I love fishing. I love being outdoors.”
With his love of the outdoors, George grew closer to his family, first talking about his sister and their relationship in basketball.
“I didn’t know much,” George said. “I knew I loved the game played. I didn’t know how far it was going to take me. But what helped was seeing my sister get to travel and go on to different places.”
George highlighted this as one of the reasons why he got into basketball and ultimately turning it into a career. He then used the platform he gained from the NBA to push issues near to his heart.
In 2015, George helped the American Stroke Association create different public service announcements to spread awareness of how to spot a stroke and how to help someone that is having one.
“I almost lost my mother when I was about six or seven,” he said. “My mom had a stroke and that was very tough for me.”
George said he was playing outside when he saw the ambulances arrive to his front door. They rushed his mother to the hospital. The doctors helped her as best as they could, bringing her back to life twice.
“You know my mom is one of my biggest supporters, one of the people I look up to most,” he said. “So it hit home for me to be able to do that give back and help other families again deal with it, made us as a family just feel much more connected [and] much more helpful to those families.”
Masekela also asked George about his love for fishing and how that helps him disengage from the outside world.
“I’m like disengaged from the world,” George said. “[I’m disengaged] from everything, haters, people, family. I’m on a date with the fish.”
George again used his platform he gained from basketball.
Earlier this year, he donated $4,200 to the Oklahoma Fishing in the Schools Program. The program worked to help get kids in Oklahoma fishing and helped many kids discover the joy of fishing.
“[The kids] wrote letters to me and our foundation on how much fishing meant to them and how much fun they had,” George said. “It was awesome. I got a chance to spend time with them out there fishing and just share a bond.”
George loves to help the community in Oklahoma with initiatives such as this, but when his career is over he said that he would love to come back to his hometown of Palmdale, California and help develop the city that raised him.
In August, he started his promise of giving by after he donated $25,000 to the city in order to help refurbish the basketball courts across the city.
“I want to open up centers for kids,” he said. “I want to be able to [build] something that kids can look forward to whether it’s after school programs or open up a gym where they can go in and do sports. That’s where my heart has been.”
George was a great end to the day of speakers who are using their platforms as athletes to make our society a better place for the kids and future generations to come.
By: Matthew Rodriguez
In a day featuring so many prominent people, one of the most impactful speakers was Jordyn Wieber. The former Olympic gold medalist and current assistant coach of the UCLA Gymnastics team, gave an empowering speech at the LA84 Foundation Summit.
Wieber came forward as a survivor of sexual abuse by the former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar in January of 2018, and at the summit, she shared her experiences again.
She demanded that the sports world should avoid the culture that made it possible for a doctor to get away with sexual abuse for so many years.
“It was a result of a toxic culture and environment of gymnastics in the United States that has prioritized winning over safety,” said Wieber. “It was a result of adults looking the other way in order to protect reputations and to continue placing more importance on money and medals.”
Although the sexual abuse perpetrated by Nassar was appalling and affected hundreds of women, Wieber said that parents, coaches and athletes need to stay vigilant and pay attention to the signs of abuse in order to prevent anything similar happening again.
“Although what has happened in gymnastics is a tragedy, I believe that we can all learn from it,” said Wieber. “It’s the little things that we all choose to do. Educate yourself and those around you. Listen to kids when they tell you that something weird is going on. Be on the lookout for signs of grooming manipulation or power from those who spend a lot of time around kids.”
Wieber sees sports as not only an outlet of energy, but a place to learn important life lessons. She says being involved in gymnastics helped her learn many great life lessons; such as discipline, determination and resilience. Now she wants to pass along these life lessons to others.
“I think those of us here today can all agree that sport is one of the top if not the number one venue for kids to grow and learn,” said Wieber.
She continued later saying her main goal as an assistant coach of the UCLA gymnastics team is to pass along the lessons she learned.
“Through my hardships and resilience in this sport, I have overcome so much and found my voice,” said Wieber. “That’s what I hope for each of the athletes on our team. My goal for them is that they identify their unique purpose and understand their abilities have a big impact within in sports that goes farther than the routines that they perform.”