Recently, former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal has become an advocate for helping student-athletes return to competitive sports as soon as possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hall of Famer says it is important that young people stay active instead of staying indoors playing video games. However, O’Neal says they should return with safety as the utmost priority in a new video interview with Yahoo News.
“The pandemic has disrupted youth sports and forced schools and hard-hit communities to slash the budgets of athletic programs,” O’Neal said. “We definitely need academic and athletic programs to give these children something to do.”
Since the COVID-19 outbreak swept across the nation, millions of Americans have lost their jobs. Small businesses continue to close leading to decreased tax revenue for many local governments that are struggling with their budgets. Additionally, many schools are choosing to move fall sports to 2021 as they slowly move back to normalcy.
Shaquille O’Neal Giving Back To Schools
O’Neal is looking to help school’s with the financial burden of sports as they return to play. The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation is collaborating with one of his sponsors Icy Hot – the pain relief brand. They are launching “Get Game Ready,” an initiative to aid high school athletic programs once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Icy Hot is funding school grants by donating $1 to O’Neal’s foundation for each product sold.
“It was definitely the right thing to do,” said O’Neal. “My high school did not have a big budget when I went to military school. A lot of things have changed. With all this new stuff that’s going on with the new protocols and mandates, a lot of these schools are going to need help.”
O’Neal has two sons who are standouts in basketball competing in college and high school. The basketball legend admits he’s not a medical expert on whether athletes should play. However, he does think that sports are a constant and important aspect of American society.
“I want everybody to make the decision that’s proper for them,” said the 19-year NBA veteran. “But sports are very important and they’ve always been part of our society. Sports and music are the only two things that when people are going through trouble, they’re the only two things that can help people ease their mind.”
For the student-athletes who are not sure if they will be able to play this season, O’Neal encourages them to stay active .
“Find a way to safely stay active,” says O’Neal. “If you’re a basketball player, dribble in your backyard, lay down on your back and shoot a million jumpers. Close your eyes and act like you’re shooting at the rim. If you’re a football player, go to your local backyard and do football drills. I’m not telling anybody to break the rules or push it, but as an athlete, we always have to stay active.”
[H/T Yahoo News]