Athletes aren’t generally known for their good nature towards fans or sometimes even their own families. In fact, many would argue that athletes are some of the biggest jerks on the planet, this side of Hollywood. Whether they’re blowing their money on elaborate mansions, expensive cars, or complaining about not getting paid enough or seeing enough action, they can be a spoiled bunch.
Not every rich person has to have a philanthropy gene, but it sure can be hard rooting for someone to win a game when they’ve already won at life. It can be even harder when the star athlete on your team beat his girlfriend or robbed someone at gunpoint. We try to ignore real life as much as we can in sports, because the people we root for or so unlike ourselves we can’t even fathom it.
But every so often, an athlete will come around and do something nice. Something that’ll warm your heart and make you feel good about rooting for them again. It’s not often, but sometimes even the little things go a long way. We’ve all heard stories of players creating a charity fund (usually in their name), but it takes a special kind of person to actually go out of their way to directly help someone.
If you look hard enough, you can find some pretty amazing stories of star athletes from several sports going out of their way to help a fan, whether they’re giving away game tickets, donating money, or even saving someone’s life. Come to think of it, you don’t have to look hard, because this is our list of the Top 15 Amazing Things Athletes Have Done For Their Fans.
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15 Tony Romo Changed a Couple’s Tire
Back in 2008, when Tony Romo was the hot new quarterback everyone was talking about, he did something truly unique. He didn’t hang out with a fan that had cancer or donate a ton of money to a charity (those he's done those in the past), but he displayed a level of humility and humbleness that distinguishes this fan interaction from many others.
After a win against the Browns in September, Romo came across a vehicle on the side of the road. A couple was outside the car, trying to flag down some help. Romo pulled over and found the two had a flat tire. With 13 stitches in his chin after an injury suffered in the game, Romo patched their tire and filled it up with an air compressor he had in his car.
At first the fans didn’t recognize him, as they were probably deathly afraid of this dude with a broken face saying he wanted to help them. But after it dawned on them, the woman jumped in his arms and the man shook his hand.
"Don't tell me how you guys did," the man told Romo, referring to the game. "I'm going home to watch it."
14 Kyle Long Offers to Ride a School Bus
Frank Oyston’s son was getting bullied so bad in Chicago that he switched his son’s schools and even that didn’t help. Frank did what every father would do, and took to Twitter for help, reaching out to Bears Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long. Long, being active on social media, replied back that he’d ride the bus and go to school with Frank’s son to get the bullies to stop. This is likely illegal, not to mention not really feasible, so Long did the next best thing.
Long went to Frank’s daughter’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese and hung out with the Oyston family. I don’t know how much that helped Frank’s son or if it stopped the bullies, but it was pretty cool for Long to offer, and even more so to go to hell on Earth, Chuck E. Cheese, to celebrate a random kid’s birthday. Good for you, Kyle.
13 Maya Moore Invited a Teenage Girl With Lupus to Practice
It’s every athlete’s dream to play professionally. It’s where they’re going to make their money, sure, but it’s also the biggest stage and the highest level of competition. Unless it’s the WNBA, according to Maya Moore, where the players practically fall off the face of the Earth after their highly publicized college careers.
But there is one girl who does want to play in the WNBA, one 14 year old girl with a life threatening disease, lupus, who reached out to Moore through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Her doctors told her she had to quit playing basketball, but she refused.
Moore heard her story and invited her to a Minnesota Lynx practice session with the rest of the team. During practice, she shot the ball and made every single basket.
"First of all, her swag is ridiculous," Moore would later joke. "I asked her, 'Do you want to shoot around?' And she comes out and makes every one of her shots. ... I was like, 'OK, before you take my spot, let's stop.'"
12 Matt Kemp Flies a Cancer Patient to a Dodgers Game
19 year old Joshua Jones was diagnosed with brain cancer and was still fighting it when his friends and family pooled together to get front row seats to a Dodgers game for Josh. During the game, his father managed to start a conversation with the Dodgers third base coach, Tim Wallach.
Wallach was so touched by the story that he went back and relayed the story to Kemp. The Dodgers were losing at the time and the story inspired Kemp. Who knows how much the story helped him or the team, but the Dodgers did end up winning, on an out made by Kemp no less.
After the game, Kemp immediately went over to the family and started giving them autographs and hanging out with them. The whole thing was filmed and went viral on Youtube. Kemp even flew Josh out to another game later that year and got him front row tickets again.
11 Bryce Harper Meets a 13 Year Old Fan With Cancer
Gavin Rupp, a 13 year old Nationals fan was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, and by July 2013, the doctors were ready to move him to hospice care. Rupp didn’t have long to live. The Nationals found out about him through one of their charities, Kyle’s Kamp. The Kamp was a baseball tournament for sick children designed to raise money for cancer.
Rupp was then invited to throw at the first pitch at a Nats game. Harper ended up meeting him there and the two talked for over an hour before Rupp threw out the first pitch. Harper then autographed Gavin’s hat and the two traded wristbands on the mound.
Gavin passed away a few weeks later. During the MLB Home Run Derby, players stand next to placards with their friends and family’s names on them. Harper’s placard had Gavin Rupp’s name on it.
10 Cam Newton Crashed a Halloween Party
Cam Newton wears his emotions on his sleeves, whether he’s got a wide grin on his face after winning a game or beating up a teammate, or if he’s given a reporter a death stare. Every time he scores a touchdown, he gives the ball to a Panthers fan in the stands. It should come as no surprise that this guy likes to have fun and he loves his fans.
In September this year, 10 year old Elijah was having a Halloween party for his favorite holiday. He was diagnosed with cancer and doctors weren't sure he’d make it to October, hence the early party. Elijah is also an Auburn fan (where Newton won a National Championship), and when Newton got wind of the party, he invited himself and brought an ice cream truck with him.
"As a mom it absolutely melts your heart. It brings tears to my eyes,” Elijah’s mother told reporters.
9 Christine Michael Goes to Orom
Who is Christine Michael, you might be asking yourself. Michael is a former backup running back for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, now with the Dallas Cowboys. He didn’t contribute much to the Seahawks two Super Bowl appearances, but he was on the team, and to some fans, that’s all it takes to be instantly beloved and remembered forever.
Such as Taylor Kirkwood, an 18 year old autistic high school senior. Taylor was able to reach out to Christine through her mom Stacie, who attended school with Michael’s cousin once. It was a long shot, but eventually Taylor was able to contact Michael and ask him to the prom, and he said yes.
“It was the most magical night of her life," Stacie Holmes said. "He was the perfect gentleman. He took her out to dinner before, posed for photos and made the night all about her."
8 Ronda Rousey Loves Her Fans
Unlike the other athletes on this list, there isn’t one big thing that Rousey has done for an individual fan that got her here. Rather, it’s the truly unique interactions between her and her fans that got her to #8 on this list.
Earlier this year, during an open practice session, a young fan ran out into the practice area and gave her a hug. She stopped working out and hugged the kid back. When a US Marine invited her to a Marine Ball also this year, she accepted the invite and went with him.
Fans have done some amazing things for Rousey as well. She once spoke about a speech impediment she had as a kid, but didn’t understand it. A parent of a child with a similar impediment reached out to Rousey and explained to her the condition, and Rousey and the girl formed a bond. She also received hand wrap tape from her fans that had hundreds of personalized support messages written on it.
Rousey also said she wanted the role of Captain Marvel, in Marvel’s upcoming female superhero movie. Fans helped her, sending both her and Marvel several emails, letters, and fan art of the fighter dressed in the Captain Marvel costume. The head of Marvel’s film studio came out and stated that the fan support made them consider her for the role, but she’s yet to be cast.
How cool is that, seeing an athlete connecting with her fans, and then supporting the fans who also support her. It’s good to see it go both ways like that.
7 Todd Frazier Delivers Bat Boy’s Home Run Request
Back in 2013, the Cincinnati Reds employed Teddy Kremer as a bat boy. Kremer has Down Syndrome, but that doesn’t stop him from rooting for his favorite team. One night, in a game against the Marlins, the Reds were running a Minor League-esque promotion: if the team scored 11 runs, there’d be free pizza for everyone in the stands.
It was the bottom of the sixth and the Reds scored nine runs. That’s when Teddy went to the next batter, Todd Frazier and made two simple requests. Score the 11th run so everyone gets free pizza and make it a home run.
Sure enough, Frazier hit a home run, scoring the 11th run. When he rounded the bases, Kremer was there waiting for him, cheering and hollering, genuinely more excited than anyone else on the team. The two embraced, and Kremer went to the dugout to celebrate with the team.
6 Peyton Manning Invites a Woman Dying of Cancer to the Broncos Facility
Kari Bollig, a 45 year old woman from Indianapolis was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer earlier this year. Stage 4 is as bad as it gets and the doctors told her there was nothing they could do for her. She started to write letters to those she loved and famous people she liked. One of them was Peyton Manning, her favorite quarterback formerly of the Colts, now playing for the Broncos.
Manning not only read the letter, but he flew her and her husband to Denver for two days. She and her husband got to see the Broncos practice, tour the stadium and Broncos facility, and sideline passes to the Broncos/Ravens game.
“He walked right over after he got his picture taken,” Kari said. “it was so sweet because he shakes my hand and says, 'I'm Peyton Manning.' It was cute. It was kind of like, 'I know who you are Peyton.'”
5 Victor Cruz Honors Sandy Hook Victim
Sandy Hook was arguable the worst attack on American soil since 9/11 and another in a long line of shootings across the country that still happen today. In December 2012, a gunman attacked Sandy Hook Elementary and killed 28 people, including several children. Among the dead was Jack Pinto, a Giants fan.
Pinto was such a Giants fan that his family chose to bury him in a team jersey, Victor Cruz’s.
Cruz heard the story and took to the field the following Sunday wearing Jack’s name on his cleats. “RIP Jack Pinto,” “My Hero,” and “This one is 4 U” stayed on his cleats the whole game. After the game, Cruz gave the cleats to Jack’s parents. The next day, Cruz went to Sandy Hook and hung out with Jack’s friends, and the survivors of the horrible shooting.
4 Roger Federer Plays Tennis With a Fan
17 year old Beatriz Tinoco had survived cancer twice, in 2011 and 2012. Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, she requested to meet her idol, tennis star Roger Federer. But this would turn out to be more than an athlete meeting a fan or even an athlete meeting a cancer survivor.
Much like Peyton Manning, Federer flew Beatriz and her family to London to watch him play a match in Wimbledon, to receive a tour of the facility with Federer and the Chairmen of Wimbledon, photographs and autographs, and she even got the chance to play tennis with him there at the stadium.
She talked about the encounter on Twitter, which reads as adorably as a 17 year old girl having a crush on her idol would.
“He comes up, gives me a hug and a kiss and then sits down and starts talking to me very naturally. I was trying hard not to freak out haha. […] After his practice he tells me we're gonna hit for a while and Sev says ‘but she doesn't have a racquet’ and Roger is like ‘she can use one of mine’ (!!!!!!!)”
3 Lamarr Woodley Donates $60k to His Hometown
When you think of the Steelers defense, you’ll likely think of big, grisly guys who like beating the crap of the people. Like James Harrison, who relishes in pissing people off and cracking ribs. Or maybe you think of Troy Polamalu’s amazing hair. But one of the staples on that defense is their former linebacker Lamarr Woodley, who’s got a heart of gold.
In his hometown of Saginaw, Michigan, Woodley found out that public schools were charging kids $75 to participate in sports. It’s not that these schools were evil, they had no money to run sports programs and needed the money to keep afloat. Naturally, people weren’t happy and athletic involvement sharply declined.
That’s when Woodley stepped in to save the day. Woodley donated $60,000 to the entire Saginaw Public School system to cover the cost of athletics for years to come, ensuring the kids didn’t have to foot the bill.
"For kids to lose out on an opportunity to maybe earn a scholarship or learn about playing team ball ... to miss out on that because your family can't afford $75 was going to be tough," Woodley said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
2 Lebron James and the Heat Play Basketball With a Young Girl
Do people still hate Lebron James since he left Cleveland? Or are they happy he’s back? Or maybe people in Miami are mad that he left there? It’s hard to tell who hates Lebron these days, or if people hate him at all, so we really don’t hear many stories of him doing good things.
Ebony Nettles-Bey, a high school basketball player, was battling stage 4 cancer when her school started the Twitter campaign #LebronMeetEbony. The hashtag was meant to attract enough attention to get Lebron to meet Ebony, a big fan of his. The campaign picked up momentum and eventually James found out about it. But he did more than meet her at her high school.
When the Heat traveled to play the Milwaukee Bucks, Lebron brought her to the game. Ebony led the team on the court at the start of the game and practiced with the team during pregame warm-ups. Not only that, but she was invited to Heat games multiple times throughout the season.
1 Adreian Payne’s Befriends a Girl with a Terminal Illness
Grab your tissues everyone, because this one’s going to make you shed a tear or two. Former Michigan State basketball star Adreian Payne was one of several players to visit 8 year old Lacey Holsworth in 2014, who had been diagnosed with cancer. She was a big fan of Spartan basketball and she developed a friendship with Payne. Payne’s grandmother died just months before he met Lacey and he felt a personal connection to the third grader.
The two texted each other every day, calling each other brother and sister. Lacey was there on senior day and Payne brought her out on the court and gave her roses. She was even there to cheer him out during the college Slam Dunk contest.
Lacey died after the season and Payne won the Outreach Award for befriend the girl. But after the ceremony, he attend Lacey’s funeral.
“She wouldn't want me to be sad,” Payne said. “I just wanted to keep winning games because I knew she looked forward to it. Once it was over, it just seemed like she had nothing else to look forward to."
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