ESPN has named Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt as a finalist for the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award.
Watt is a finalist for his efforts in helping raise money after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area in August 2017. Watt posted a video for his 10 million social media followers and asked them to help meet his fundraising goal of $200,000 in 19 days.
The four-time All-Pro raised more than $37 million, making it one of the largest crowd-sourced fundraisers in history, and earning him the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award at the NFL Honors this past February.
$30 million of the funds have been used to rebuild homes and provide food and healthcare needs for those affected most by Hurricane Harvey’s destruction. The remaining $7 million has been set aside for distribution throughout the rest of this year to meet other needs that grow from the relief effort.
Watt’s community outreach is a staple of his off-field life. Through the Justin J. Watt Foundation, he has raised more than $4 million for underprivileged middle school after-school athletic programs around the country. One of the biggest fundraisers is his annual celebrity softball game that features past and present Texans teammates.
According to ESPN, the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award is, “given to an athlete whose continuous, demonstrated leadership has created a measured positive impact on their community through sports.” Though Watt only played five games in 2018, his impact during the despair of Hurricane Harvey was legendary and one of the finest highlights any athlete could have. No doubt Watt’s efforts meet Ali’s core principles, according to ESPN, of embodying, “confidence, conviction, dedication, giving and respect.”
Other finalists include Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, and WWE wrestler John Cena. The winner will be named during the fourth annual Sports Humanitarian Awards to be held on July 17 and broadcast as a one-hour special on ESPN on July 24 at 6:00 p.m. Central Time.