Legions of fans will watch the Eagles spar with the Saints on Sunday in the playoffs’ NFC divisional round. Win or lose, there’s a case to be made for cheering both teams — OFF the field, that is.
Social activism has become a core practice on modern NFL rosters. Players have the cash — on average, they make more than $2 million per year — and many of them put it to good use.
As a team, the Eagles have developed a league-leading number of programs or partnered with existing nonprofits to make an impact in the Greater Philadelphia area. A few of these social responsibility efforts include the Eagles Charitable Foundation, the Eagles, Autism Challenge, Eagles Care, the Field Goal Forest Program, Community RedZone, TD For Kids and Playground Build.
That isn’t to say that the Saints don’t care about the Big Easy. Alongside the Birds, the Saints have participated in the My Cause My Cleats campaign, and their head coach has a foundation that’s donated more than $2.5 million to local causes. Several other players also make moves on their own.
Here’s a look at some of how Philly’s and NOLA’s star athletes use their seven-figure salaries to give back.
Safety, 31 years old
Philanthropy via: The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation
How it helps: The foundation helps sustain football programs in underserved communities in states like New Jersey, Ohio and Louisiana.
Even more: In 2017 Jenkins won the Byron “Whizzer” White Award for community service — the “highest honor the NFLPA can bestow on a player” for service. The award included a $100,000 donation to his foundation. Jenkins is also a co-founder of the Players Coalition, a group of NFL players seeking to work with league owners and local communities on behalf of underserved residents.
Quarterback, 26 years old
Philanthropy via: AO1 Foundation
How it helps: The Wentz-founded organization provides underprivileged youth with food, shelter and education; provides outdoor opportunities for veterans and the physically challenged; and provides service dogs to those in need.
Running back, 35 years old
Philanthropy via: Sproles Empowered Youth
How it helps: Both Darren and Michel Sproles created this non-profit organization to empower teens through a series of camps that teach them essential life-skills like handling finances, business education, health and sex education, self-image, fitness and sportsmanship.
Defensive end, 33 years old
Philanthropy via: On top of advocating for the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-white supremacy cause on and off the field, Long has donated his game checks to the Boys & Girls Club of Central Virginia, given his entire 2017 salary to educational outreach programs in three cities, invested a full quarter of his 2018 salary on nationwide literacy efforts and spearheaded a philanthropic project that funds access to clean water in Tanzania.
Wide receiver, 26 years old
Philanthropy via: Matthews Mission
How it helps: Matthews’ foundation operates around four centric goals, which spell out the acronym F.E.E.D: feed the hungry, educate the children, empower the family and donate to those in need. So far, the charity has raised over $150,000 in contributions for organizations that further his FEED initiative (such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia).
Tight end, 28 years old
Philanthropy via: Ertz Family Foundation
How it helps: Last summer, Ertz is and his wife Julie (a star professional soccer player) founded this organization — and it’s “City of Love Fund” to support Philadelphia charities in three areas: youth sports, education and family.
Even more: In November 2017, Ertz bought 295 pieces of sporting equipment (approximately $15,000 worth of gear) for the Camden, New Jersey after-school program. In years past, the organization had to turn away nearly 100 kids because their parents couldn’t afford the equipment.
Cornerback, 24 years old
Philanthropy via: The Cre’Von LeBlanc Foundation
How it helps: Based out of his hometown of West Palm Beach, Florida, LeBlanc’s namesake has provided outreach for young people across the country by promoting academic, social skills and leadership development in the hopes of breaking the systemic chain of poverty and the obstacles that come with economic injustice.
Defensive tackle, 34 years old
Philanthropy via: Haloti Ngata Family Foundation
How it helps: The logo of the Haloti Ngata Family Foundation has three letters bolded in red: O, F and A. Not only is “Ofa” the Tongan word for “love,” it is also the name of the defensive tackle’s late mother, for whom the foundation is dedicated. The charity has been allocating funds to different organizations and causes throughout the country since 2012.
Defensive tackle, 28 years old
Philanthropy via: Philadelphia Police Foundation
How it helps: Last January, the Philadelphia Police Foundation named Cox a co-chair of its second annual Night for Blue event, which will benefit the organization’s mission to fulfill police equipment needs not covered by the city. In April, Cox donated $100,000 to the foundation.
Kicker, 23 years old
Philanthropy via: Kelli Joy O’Laughlin Memorial Fund
How it helps: Elliott’s high school in Illinois, Lyons Township, made a $5 t-shirt in his honor last January wishing him luck before the Superbowl. Elliott chose to dedicate the proceeds from the t-shirt sales to the Kelli Joy fund (named after a first-year student who was senselessly murdered in 2015), which provides educational opportunities for young people.
Linebacker, 29 years old
Philanthropy via: The Whaleman Foundation
How it helps: For the 2018/19 season, Bradham partnered with Charitybuzz to auction off a meet-and-greet and 4 VIP level seats to a regular home game — plus VIP parking and VIP Touchdown and Presidential Club Passes — to raise money for The Whaleman Foundation’s education, conservation and outreach efforts on the issues that affect cetaceans.
This past year, Trey Burton, Nick Foles and Jordan Hicks partnered with the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, raising money to support victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Meanwhile, Lane Johnson donated all of the proceeds from his famous “underdog” t-shirts to The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia and Rodney McLeod and Tre Sullivan raised resources for college preparedness for Philly youth with CF Charities.
Michael Bennett, the Eagles’ new defensive end, is also an outspoken advocate for social justice and Brandon Brooks publicly discusses his battle with mental health to inspire others struggling with anxiety.
In December 2017, running back Wendell Smallwood helped pay the bills and bought some holiday presents for single mothers in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., while wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey played the role of Santa Claus and delivered gifts to over a hundred families served by the Beckett Life Center in North Philadelphia.
New Orleans Saints
Head coach, 55 years old
Philanthropy via: Payton’s Play It Forward Foundation.
How it helps: This program has donated $2,500,000 to organizations that aid Louisiana residents who have experienced homelessness or poverty, lack access to education and health resources and/or are victims of domestic violence.
Quarterback, 39 years old
Philanthropy: The Brees Dream Foundation
How it helps: Founded over fifteen years ago, Brees’ foundation has contributed over $25,000,000 to charitable causes around the world that improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their children and families. Other than donations, much of these funds are allocated through a variety of programs that the foundation hosts, such as the Brees TopGolf Challenge and Drew Brees Passing Academy.
Even more: In 2011, Brees was appointed as an Ambassador for the World Food Programme.
Running back, 29 years old
Philanthropy via: Mark Ingram Foundation
How it helps: Growing up as a child with an incarcerated parent — Ingram’s father, Mark Ingram Sr., was sentenced to seven years in prison and five years probation in 2008 for money laundering and fraud — Ingram knows first-hand the challenges and stress of having a loved one navigating the criminal justice system. Because of his own experience, Ingram was inspired to start a foundation that is committed to helping at-risk youth and their families affected by incarceration, especially in Flint, Michigan and New Orleans.
Even more: Ingram was recognized as the Saints’ 2018 Man of the Year.
Punter, 33 years old
Philanthropy via: Morstead’s What You Give Will Grow
How it helps: WYGWG was founded in 2014 by Morstead and his wife, Lauren, as a way to give back to their community in a meaningful way and to encourage “the giving spirit.” The organization focuses mainly on donating to children’s cancer initiatives in the New Orleans and Gulf South communities. To date, they have raised over $2,500,000.
Offensive tackle, 27 years old
Philanthropy via: Terron Armstead Foundation
How it helps: Cahokia, Illinois native Terron Armstead hosts a free football camp that serves over 300 kids each summer. Special guest coaches have included football players Mark Ingraham, Brandon Coleman, Senio Klemente and Andrus Peat, who either have all or formerly been on the Saints roster. Along with the camp, the foundation also has sponsored a basketball league, scholarships, food drives, back-to-school events, and is in the process of creating a leadership internship.
Linebacker, 29 years old
Social activism: Representing the Players Coalition to lobby legislators to change the bail system.
How it helps: Last March, Davis joined members of the Bronx public defenders and other criminal justice reform advocates in New York’s State Capitol to challenge race-based discrimination in the bail system and lobby for penal reform.