ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For the second consecutive year, the Denver Broncos are up for one of the most prestigious awards in sports.
On Wednesday, ESPN announced that the Broncos are again one of four finalists for the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award, which honors an organization for its continued devotion to making an impact in its community.
The Broncos are joined by the Atlanta Dream, New York City Football Club and Toronto Blue Jays as finalists for the award, which is given out annually to the sports franchise that best shows how the team spirit can make a significant impact on a community or cause. Each finalist will receive $25,000, and the winner will receive a $100,000 grant to be put toward their continuing community endeavors. The Broncos and the other finalists will be featured in an ABC special on July 24.
"The Broncos' recognition as a finalist for ESPN's Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year — for the second year in a row — speaks to the consistent and unparalleled commitment of our players, staff and partners to serving our community," Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis said. "During such a challenging and unprecedented year, we were inspired by the dedication of so many within our organization impacting the areas of COVID-19 relief, social justice, youth development and more.
"I want to specifically applaud the players and our community development staff — Allie Engelken, Liz Jeralds, Bobby Mestas and Katie Shuster — for adapting our outreach in a truly meaningful and thoughtful way. When it was needed most, our organization worked together and rose to the occasion by providing such remarkable support to our community."
The year started out like almost any other in this area. The Broncos' Pro Bowlers took part in events in Orlando, and Justin Simmons participated in a Huddle for 100 event with other Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominees at a Boys & Girls Club event in Miami during the week of Super Bowl LV. Back in Denver, Bradley Chubb began a series of visits to Boys & Girls Clubs in the metro Denver area and Head Coach Vic Fangio held a meet-and-greet at the Arapahoe Sheriff's Office as part of Random Acts of Kindness Week.
But after that, the landscape of the country changed, as the novel coronavirus made its way to the U.S.
With much of the country entering an extensive quarantine period to try to contain the pandemic, the Broncos' community efforts went through a significant shift, as well. In-person efforts were limited largely to events like donation of personal protective equipment (PPE), a Food Bank of the Rockies mobile pantry and the like.
But curtailing the extent of their community work was not an option; like so many others, the Broncos' community department shifted their methods to the ones that became most feasible. In place of in-person hospital visits, players did virtual visits over video-chatting services to stay connected with patients of all ages. Of the more than 850 hours volunteered through 744 opportunities, more than 230 came over video or Zoom.
The team also helped support the Colorado COVID Relief Fund and other efforts, ultimately contributing more than $1 million.
Throughout the year, Broncos players and the team also focused much of their efforts on issues of social justice. Players, coaches and staff came together to take part in a march for racial justice the June of 2020, and months later, players and the team launched the Inspire Change program to help support social justice initiatives.
Inspire Change focuses on four areas: Education, Awareness & Funding, Diversity & Inclusion, and Activism.
The education aspect included weekly, player-led meeting time budgeted for "Power Hour" sessions, as well as youth education opportunities through partnerships with the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality and various local groups as part of the Empowerment Summit Digital Learning Series.
Through the awareness and funding focus, the Broncos created a "We Stand For" campaign with several players to discuss issues close to them, and the team committed to making an annual donation of $250,000 to player-designated organizations.
As part of the diversity and inclusion arm, the team held its first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Career Huddle for college students and young professionals earlier this spring, and it hired China L. Jude to be Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in April.
The activism segment featured a campaign to encourage voting, and the team closed UCHealth Training Center and Empower Field at Mile High on Nov. 3 for election day to allow players, coaches and staff to exercise their right to vote. The Broncos also helped coordinate opportunities for players to have an audience with local leaders, including Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and local police chiefs and sheriffs.
In addition, the Broncos furthered many of their usual commitments in the community, including continuing to be the only professional sports team to fully fund its own branch of the Boys & Girls Club of America. In 2020, the team contributed $300,000 for renovations and a reopening of the Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club. Since 2003, the club has helped more than 14,000 children receive support and resources through the club.
The Broncos also maintained its Staff Community Service Series in 2020 with in-person and remote volunteer opportunities every month and supported 35 local nonprofit organizations through the annual Community Grant Program.
With the Broncos named a finalist for the 2021 Sports Humanitarian Sports Team Award, look back through their community endeavors over the past year.