Athletes from the NFL, NHL, WNBA and the Women’s Tennis Association among others are getting behind “The Real Heroes Project” to highlight and celebrate healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sporting superstars are using the hashtag #TheRealHeroes alongside social media posts of them placing tape with the names of medical workers over their own names on the back of sports jerseys.
WTA World No. 1 Ash Barty gave a shout out to her sister Sara Coppolecchia, who is a midwife.
“Thank you so much for everything you do, not just for new mums and new bubs but all of your nursing and midwifery and helping young mothers and their families through all these uncertain times. She’s my inspiration,” Barty said in her video.
Overwatch League, a professional esports league for Overwatch, a video-game, posted a video compilation of sports-stars thanking medical workers while holding up their jerseys with their names replaced by the medical personnels’. Call of Duty League, Activision Blizzard Esports and Electronic Arts are among a list of E-sports organisations supporting the campaign.
Major sports leagues across the US participating and supporting the “The Real Heroes Project” include the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), United States Women’s National Soccer Team, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
Organisers behind the project are hoping for participation from across all levels of sports, from community pickup games and Saturday-morning soccer, to high school teams and college leagues.
WTA Grand Slam singles champ Victoria Azarenka honoured Araceli Buendia Ilagan, a nurse , who “dedicated nearly 33 years of her life to working with the most critically ill hospital patients” who tragically lost her life in late April. Azarenka has since started a COVID19 Miami Pandemic Response charity fund, which has so far raised over $5,000.
American tennis champion Coco Gauff posted a video of herself speaking about her “Frontline Hero” – registered nurse Kendra Thaddies, holding a New Balance banner with her name scrolled above, accompanied by Beyoncé’s ‘Halo’ (the number which has been the official soundtrack to these videos).
“I just want to say I’m so grateful and very proud of you for continuing to sacrifice your time to help all of us. I thank you for your service and I hope you stay safe,” she said.
On her Instagram post, Gauff wrote, “Auntie Kim, you’re selflessness and dedication has been an inspiration to me! I’m honoured to put your name on my back. On behalf of the @wta , thank you for fighting for our safety!🙌🏾
Japanese superstar tennis player Naomi Osaka dedicated her video to Dr. Shamsah Amersi, an obstetrician in Los Angeles.
“In her spare time she is working around the clock to find extra PPE for her colleagues and to feed those that can’t get meals on their own,” Osaka said.
On Tuesday, Barty visited frontline healthcare workers at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital with another tennis legend, Pat Rafter, to acknowledge the work of doctors and nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was really incredible to come into one of the COVID wards and just to see how it all works and how it’s sectioned off,” Barty told ATP.
“There were a lot of people and a lot of unsung heroes who are going unnoticed at the moment who are doing a lot of work to keep us safe, keep the community safe and to keep us tracking in the right direction.”