It’s all too easy to focus on the negatives in sports when so many athletes boast ridiculously charitable personalities outside of competition.
Yes, there are destroyed cell phones, suspensions, fights, questionable conditions at international sporting events and plenty more going wrong in the sporting realm.
But there’s also charity, both of the monetary and time kind. There are men and women using the salary or stature of their position to better the world in one way or another, whether it’s working with children or the disadvantaged, and regardless of praise or folks even realizing it’s happening.
Here are the current athletes who go above and beyond the call with their charitable ways.
Mark Lennihan/Associated Press
Ronda Rousey fell out of the global spotlight at UFC 193 when she took the unexpected knockout loss at the hands of Holly Holm.
Said loss doesn’t mean Rousey should remain invisible from the headlines.
Rousey is an important figure in the world of charity because of her foundation which donates money to Didi Hirsch 501c3, helping their work in mental health services. She’s also worked in the Free Rice Campaign and started the Gompers Judo program in 2009.
Her stature in the sporting world unquestioned, Rousey continues to commit to key societal issues daily.
Matt Slocum/Associated Press
Michael Phelps is busy combating the waters in Rio, but his charitable journey continues every day after starting in 2008.
It’s hard to forget Phelps reeled in a historic eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, but it’s easier to forget he threw down some of his major financial gains on charity.
Indeed, Phelps took a $1 million bonus from a sponsor and created his own foundation, which to this day works with children.
Phelps also invests time, as All Charities-Count captured:
— All Charities-Count (@All_Charity_Ct) July 22, 2015
A global icon, Phelps helps lead the way when it comes to exemplary charitable actions.
Elaine Thompson/Associated Press
Go ahead, do a Google search with the terms “Russell Wilson Hospital” and click images.
Wilson spends a huge amount of his free time visiting children at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg for the Seattle Seahawks quarterback.
The “Why Not You” foundation supports various children’s causes, he’s a national ambassador for the Charles Ray III Diabetes Association and his “Invested with Russell” raises money for local charities.
From a football standpoint, Russell does his part with the Russell Wilson Passing Academy in various cities.
Wilson commits the time and money like few others.
Eraldo Peres/Associated Press
Also a global icon, footballer Neymar doesn’t shy away from helping out around the world.
The 24-year-old FC Barcelona and Brazil national team star has helped fight against Ebola, helps bring clean water to Brazil and commits plenty of his free time to children, such as in the recent post here:
According to ESPN.com’s Dermot Corrigan, the The Instituto Projeto Neymar Jr. takes in 2,400 local disadvantaged children.
“The love I get from the kids, the conversations we have…it gives me strength to return to Barcelona and keep running after more trophies,” Neymar said, per Corrigan. “It makes me really happy to do something for these kids and their families.”
Seth Wenig/Associated Press
Albeit somewhat quietly, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has always ranked among the most charitable names in the sporting world.
Manning has donated $1 million to Ole Miss in the past, but the biggest chunk of his work comes through the Eli Manning Children’s Clinic.
NJ.com’s Nick Powell provided the staggering context: “The Giants quarterback raised nearly $3 million over a five year-period from 2007 to 2012 to build his Eli Manning Children’s Clinic in Mississippi, which provides outpatient care to more than 75,000 children each year.”
Like Wilson, Manning is also a major advocate for children’s charities, another feather in the cap for a player who makes it his mission to help others off the field.
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
One of the most polarizing players on any field, Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh is one of the most charitable off it.
Suh donated a ridiculous $2.6 million to Nebraska in 2011, also throwing a cool $250,000 to his high school in 2013.
Other than throwing large sums of cash at programs, Suh’s foundation website lists plenty of notables surrounding his off-field work. The Ndamukong Suh Family Foundation has worked to help provide children with school supplies, offered scholarships and committed to attendance programs.
One of the most expensive players in the NFL (he’s sitting on a $114 million deal, per Spotrac), it might not sound like Suh’s taking a major hit. But that misses the point entirely—he’s doing more than most.
Elise Amendola/Associated Press
Serena Williams’ charitable endeavors continue alongside her on-court efforts.
It’s 2016 and the tennis legend might be 34 years old, but she reached the finals of the Australian Open and French Open this year before taking home the victory at Wimbledon, giving her two in a row and seven on her career.
The long career means plenty of charity opportunities for the global sensation, too. Williams is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador who has helped build schools in Africa, she’s fought against breast cancer and with UNICEF helps promote access to education for children in Asia.
Williams’ involvement in charitable causes is borderline exhausting, which is a good thing. At Look to the Stars, she’s listed with 12 different charities and countless causes. It’s easy to see her impact off the court won’t falter regardless of her performance on it.
While some might classify it as more entertainment than sport, there’s no denying the physical conditioning and functional strength of WWE wrestlers, and there’s absolutely zero questioning John Cena’s rank as one of the most charitable athletes in the world.
Cena is not only the most-requested athlete in the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he’s blown everyone else out of the water, granting more than 500 wishes to date.
Always versatile, Cena has also played an important role over the years with the Susan G. Komen organization to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer. In 2014, he acted as the Grand Marshal for the 2014 Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure.
For a guy committed to WWE’s year-round schedule, hosting award shows and acting, to name a few of his pursuits, Cena’s continued committal to charitable work is one of the world’s leading sporting examples.
Chris Pizzello/Associated Press
Few commit a full-court press to helping educate children the way LeBron James does.
Remember the Decision? What folks choose not to recall is the fact the program raised $3 million for charity.
And that’s just the beginning.
The LeBron James Family Foundation focuses on children, with James dropping in the neighborhood of $41 million in 2015 to send 1,100 kids to school. He took to Twitter to endorse the program:
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 13, 2015
James also used the spotlight of the 2016 ESPYs Awards to speak out on race relations and interactions with the police in the United States.
Long story short, James has a vast, deep interest in using the game of basketball to improve the world around what is merely a game.
Martin Meissner/Associated Press
Cristiano Ronaldo gets the major headlines for his charity work, though oftentimes a lot of what he does goes unnoticed.
As for the headline-grabbing stuff, the Real Madrid star just donated his entire Champions League bonus, €600,000, to charity. He’s also the guy who made waves for donating $83,000 to fund a 10-year-old child’s brain surgery.
Back in 2014, Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times chronicles more of Ronaldo’s efforts, some globally known, others kept previously under the radar:
When he won a libel suit against a British tabloid in 2008 he donated the money to a charity in the Portuguese archipelago where he was born. And a year later he gave more than $165,000 to fund a cancer center at the Portuguese hospital that treated his mother.
In the last two years alone he paid for a 9-year-old cancer patient to receive pioneering treatment in an attempt to save his life and became an international spokesman for two global campaigns addressing childhood hunger and obesity and another aimed at conserving biodiversity.
It’s almost easier to name what Ronaldo hasn’t done. He’s helped fight various natural disasters, he sold the golden boot he won in 2011 for charity and became Save the Children’s new Global Artist Ambassador.
All are impressive feats, with one thing about Ronaldo’s work clearest of all—he’s just getting started.