The Chicago Fire and New York City FC were named finalists Wednesday for the annual Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award presented by ESPN, in recognition of those clubs’ successful community outreach programs.
The Fire are being recognized – for the second year running – for their P.L.A.Y.S. (Participate, Learn, Achieve, Youth and Soccer) initiative, a 10-week program integrating soccer with social and emotional learning character skills to improve participants’ academic performance while providing safe places to play. P.L.A.Y.S. has been shown to reduce behavior infractions, suspensions and unexcused absences among participants, while also improving academic performance levels.
NYCFC’s nomination is a product of their “City in the Community” program of free community soccer initiatives throughout New York City, launched in 2014 to use soccer to tackle social issues around health, education and crime prevention. Mindful of high rates of obesity and high-school dropouts in the city, NYCFC and its owners (City Football Group) use CITC to provide more than 5,000 kids a year with safe places to play via a variety of programs, from the construction of 50 mini-pitches to the New York City Soccer Initiative to the Saturday Night Lights program, which opens unused public school gyms in all five boroughs for free soccer sessions.
It’s also the second such nomination for NYCFC, who are the first and only New York sports team to be nominated for this Team of the Year Award. The Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year winner will be able to direct a $100,000 grant from ESPN to the qualified charity related to the award-winning humanitarian efforts; finalists will be able to direct a $25,000 grant to the charity related to their award-winning efforts.
The ESPN Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award winner will be announced at a ceremony July 9 at L.A. LIVE, hosted by Grammy Award winner singer and songwriter Ciara and featuring a special performance by singer and record producer Andy Grammer. Highlights of the evening will be showcased during a one-hour program on ESPN on July 18, at 7 pm ET.