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Ernie Els is among the nominees identified across the world of sports for the third annual Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards, presented by ESPN and sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb.

The event will celebrate and honor leagues, teams, individuals and members of the sporting community that are using the power of sport to make a positive impact on society. Winners will be announced from nominees of three returning award categories: Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year, Corporate Community Impact Award and League Humanitarian Leadership Award. New this year is the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award (changed from last year’s Sports Humanitarian of the Year) to honor the legacy of Muhammad Ali’s impact on society. Additionally, three Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award honorees will be recognized.

Laila Ali will return as host for the Sports Humanitarian Awards for the third year alongside ESPN’s Mike Greenberg. Highlights of the evening will be showcased during a one-hour program on ESPN, July 25, at 7 p.m. ET. Additionally, Lilly Oncology is returning as an event sponsor.

The net proceeds of the event will benefit the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund at the V Foundation. In addition, ESPN will grant another $1 million to the charities of the nominees and winners. Combined, more than $1.7 million was distributed to the community as a result of the initiative in 2016.

The finalists and winners have been determined by an independent selection committee, which includes: Nick Keller, Founder and President of Beyond Sport, Donald Lassere, CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center, Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, CEO of Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA, Sab Singh, Founder of Sports Doing Good, Caryl Stern, CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Eli Wolff, Director of the Sport and Society program at Brown University.

“The Sports Humanitarian Awards finalists and honorees are making a true, measurable impact on society using the power of sports,” said Kevin Martinez, vice president of ESPN Corporate Citizenship. “With the newly named Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award, moving the event to The Novo and an hour-long special on ESPN, this year’s show promises to be the best yet.”

The Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award recognizes an athlete whose continuous, demonstrated leadership has created a positive impact on their community through sports. The winner will be able to direct a $100,000 grant from ESPN to the qualified charity related to the award-winning humanitarian efforts. The finalists will be able to direct a $25,000 grant to the charity related to their award-winning efforts.

Nominees (winner to be announced at awards ceremony July 11): 

  • Ernie Els: In 2009, Ernie Els and his wife Liezl established the Els for Autism Foundation shortly after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. The Els have donated millions of their own money, and through dedicated fundraising they opened the first components of The Els Center of Excellence. The Center, based in Jupiter, Fla., serves the local, national and international autism communities and is game-changing resource in the field. To date, his programs have served over 3,647 individuals with Autism and their families from 13 countries, focusing on education, global outreach, therapy, research, recreation and adult services. Els’ programs extend to the links as well with his innovative Ernie Els #GameON Autism Golf program, which encourages participants to learn golf skills while practicing specific autism learning concepts including communication, emotional regulation, motor and social skills.
  • Larry Fitzgerald: Following a long tradition of community service in his family, giving back is part of Larry Fitzgerald’s ethos. Through the Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund, he has supported middle and high schools in Minneapolis and Phoenix to fund books, science supplies and field trips, and helps provide the latest technology to disadvantaged youth who otherwise would not have access. He helped to outfit the entire Minneapolis Parks and Recreation youth football program where Larry first played football as a young child with 1,000 new helmets. In honor of his late mother, Fitzgerald has become a champion of breast cancer research and has used his play on the field to highlight breast cancer awareness and prevention efforts. He also has teamed with a number of international aid foundations, helping fit hundreds of hearing aids for those in need all over Africa, as well as working on irrigation systems and digging wells in local communities.
  • Mark Giordano: Undrafted but now at the forefront of the Calgary Flames as team captain, Mark Giordano never loses sight of what got him to the NHL, and consistently exhibits conviction, integrity and bravery in his long-history of giving back to the community. His 5 for 5 initiative provided the funding to build five homes with Habitat for Humanity in Ethiopia, India, Kenya, the Philippines and the Calgary area. In 2014, he and his wife Lauren launched Team Giordano, which has helped 1,900 students in four high-needs Calgary schools. The program not only provides resources, including computers, supplies and their own “Gio Journals” to track students’ progress, but promotes physical fitness, academics, and the positive behaviors that lead to success in life. And the program is working—with one school reporting that 88% of students are reading at grade level thanks to the literacy resources provided courtesy of Team Giordano. Additionally, he stands behind other important community causes, including stamping out discrimination based on sexual orientation and support of mental health awareness.
  • Curtis Granderson: Curtis Granderson’s passion is deeply rooted in opening windows of opportunity for youth minorities in underserved communities. He noticed a common obstacle shared by many of these youth – hunger. Since 2012, Granderson has hosted a month-long campaign every November entirely dedicated to solving the food insecurity epidemic. First in Chicago, the Grand Giving program later expanded to New York City, and then nationally in 2017. Since its inception, the campaign has provided more than 3.5 million meals for hungry youth across the country. Additionally, in an effort to get kids active and enjoy the game of baseball, Granderson helped build a new stadium on the campus of his alma mater, the University of Illinois at Chicago, which enables 20,000 inner-city kids the opportunity to play each year.

About ESPN Corporate Citizenship
ESPN believes that, at its very best, sports uplifts the human spirit. Its corporate citizenship programs use power of sport to positively address society’s needs through strategic community investments, cause marketing programs, collaboration with sports organizations and employee volunteerism, while also utilizing its diverse media assets. For more information go to

About the V Foundation for Cancer Research
The V Foundation for Cancer Research is dedicated to declaring victory over cancer. It was founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano, legendary North Carolina State Basketball coach and ESPN commentator. Since 1993, the Foundation has funded more than $170 million in cancer research grants nationwide. It awards 100 percent of all direct cash donations to cancer research and related programs. Due to generous donors, the Foundation has an endowment that covers administrative expenses. Not a Moment to Lose, its boldest fundraising campaign to date, aims to raise $200 million for cancer research by 2020 to help transform the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer. The Foundation awards peer-reviewed grants through a competitive awards process vetted by a world-renowned Scientific Advisory Committee. For more information on the V Foundation, please visit

About Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali is one of the most recognizable and influential sports figures of all time. His countless awards and accolades include being named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Century,” GQ’s “Athlete of the Century,” and being the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freeman and the Amnesty International Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to his groundbreaking achievements as an athlete, Muhammad Ali was a global citizen who dedicated much of his life to helping those in need. He facilitated the delivery of medical supplies to an embargoed Cuba, provided more than 22 million meals to the world’s hungry and helped secure the release of fifteen U.S. hostages from Iraq during the first Gulf War.

About Bristol-Myers Squibb
Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases. For more information about Bristol-Myers Squibb, visit us at or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

ESPN Contact: Josh Krulewitz at (860) 766-2319;; @jksports
Belen Michelis at (860) 766-1425;; @belen_espn