Earlier this month, when Houston was ravaged by Hurricane Harvey, the sports world erupted in support. Owners cut six-figure (sometimes seven-figure) checks, J.J. Watt became a national hero for raising money, and media outlets gave players the area ample platform to speak about their city. The outpouring was beautiful and impactful. Untold numbers of people in Houston currently have food, water or shelter because of generosity from fans, athletes and executives.
Now, Puerto Rico has been smacked by a similar storm, and the island needs help. Homes are destroyed, electricity is gone, and 44 percent of the 3.5 million residents reportedly lack clean drinking water.
It’s time for the sports world to step up for Puerto Rico the same way it did for Houston.
There is no shortage of ways to help. Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina have launched fundraising drives, as have Carmelo Anthony, J.J. Barea, Monica Puig, Jorge Posada, Enrique Hernandez, ESPN’s Marly Rivera and others. None of these drives has taken off the way Watt’s did, but it’s not too late. The situation in Puerto Rico remains dire, and if sports fans, teams, sponsors and athletes rally together like they did a few weeks ago, we can make a big difference for millions of people in true crisis.
To some Americans on the mainland, Puerto Rico feels distant. It’s not a state, it’s on an island, the people there speak a different language. But Puerto Ricans are American citizens, and more importantly, they are humans. And right now, they need some help.
Watch Beltran break down crying over the state of his homeland and try not to feel the urgency of the crisis.
A very emotional Carlos Beltran says "it's hard to see the people suffering" in Puerto Rico. pic.twitter.com/6Nu38ONtqe
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) September 26, 2017
Or read what Puig, the first ever Olympic gold medalist from Puerto Rico, told Sports Illustrated about how the crisis has hit her.
It doesn’t matter if we rebuild Puerto Rico in a day; I know the emotional pain will still be there because a lot of people lost their homes and that hits hardest. Now it’s about trying to get them to believe and to have that spirit that things will get better and that with time, everything will heal.
I also want them to know that they’re not alone because a lot of people have been paying attention, and a lot of other athletes have chipped in and started their own fundraising efforts. A lot of us are starting to come together now to form one group to make an even bigger impact.
Thankfully, many in the sports would have, in fact, rallied for Puerto Rico. The Beltran-led Astros have facilitated the transport of more than 240,000 pounds of supplies to the island. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban loaned Barea a plane to fly supplies home. The NFL has committed to some sort of fundraiser, and Major League Baseball has donated $1 million.
But what if donations didn’t come only from leagues and teams with Puerto Rican players? What if they came from every league or team with at least one Puerto Rican fan—that is, every single league and team? What if every NFL owner who spoke vaguely of patriotism and unity last weekend opened his checkbook to a group of Americans in distress?
We have seen quite clearly how powerful the sports world can be when it rallies behind a worthy cause. Here is another opportunity to show our collective might. We should not let it pass by.