Stars around globe lend support to medical world

ByJoon Lee ESPN logo
Thursday, March 26, 2020

Los Angeles LakersstarLeBron James taped a message of support and gratitude for UCLA health care workers Wednesday, joining a trend of athletes finding ways to support medical staffers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Athletes from around the world, from Pete Alonso to Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Stephen Curry, are expressing direct support and putting their dollars behind medical professionals during this international health crisis.

Some athletes are raising money, and others are recording videos of support, donating protective equipment to hospitals and feeding hospital staffs working overtime.

James recorded a thank-you message for the UCLA medical staff, as Los Angeles County has reported more than 660 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The UCLA medical staff has been tasked with treating many of those patients while trying to contain the spread of the virus.

"I just want to let you know that y'all hard work and y'all dedication does not go unnoticed," James said. "The James Gang family here thanks you guys, and hopefully we can get back on our feet, and we can get back to our everyday lives very soon.

"I just want to say thank you once again. Like I said, do not think for one second that you guys are not recognized, that you guys are going unnoticed. The time and commitment that you guys are putting in is truly commendable and remarkable."

Ibrahimovic, who now plays for AC Milan in Serie A after playing for the LA Galaxy of the MLS, has started fundraising campaigns.

The soccer superstar opened a GoFundMe for Humanitas hospitals in Italy. The country has had more than 53,000 reported cases of the coronavirus and more than 5,400 deaths, surpassing China for the country with the largest death toll.

In six days, the fundraising totals on Ibrahimovic's pages have exceeded $300,000.

"Italy has always given me so much, and in this dramatic moment, I want to give back even more to this country that I love," said Ibrahimovic, who previously played for Juventus in Serie A.

"It's a serious issue, and we need concrete help that is not just about a video," Ibrahimovic said in a video tweeted in both English and Italian. "I count on the generosity of my colleagues, of all professional athletes and of those who want to make a small or large donation according to their possibilities, to kick this virus away."

Alonso, the first baseman for theNew York Mets, sent individualized video messages to doctors and nurses, thanking them for their sacrifices during the outbreak. In the video, Alonso said the pandemic has given him new appreciation for the simple freedom of playing baseball.

"I just want to thank you so much for all the time and effort that you're putting into this," Alonso said. "Thank you on behalf of everybody because you're part of a bigger picture and trying to help prevent this disease. Thank you for keeping everybody safe and providing protection for everybody if you're on the front line. Thank you, and as always, let's go, Mets!"

UFC superstar Conor McGregor pledged to purchase more than 1 million euros worth of protective gear for hospitals in Ireland that are battling the coronavirus pandemic. McGregor posted a text exchange with Irish politician Paschal Donohoe in which he explained his support plan.

"Today I am purchasing myself, 1 million euro worth of personal protective equipment to be deployed to all the fighting hospitals in the Leinster region," McGregor wrote. "Our most affected region, to this date. ...

"Where would we be without these brave men and women, I do not know. May god bless over them and keep them safe."

Curry on Thursday is scheduled to host a conversation on Instagram Live with Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the leading experts on the coronavirus pandemic and a top medical adviser to President Donald Trump during the White House's response to the international crisis.

"We all have to take responsibility for ourselves and do whatever it takes to #stopthespread," Curry wrote on his Twitter feed on March 15. "There's a sense of urgency to flatten the curve and give ourselves and the healthcare system the best chance to get through this pandemic. Share this message, and let's protect each other!"

The Pittsburgh Pirates reached out to their local communities and delivered more than 400 pizzas from two local pizzerias to the staff at Allegheny General Hospital.Chicago Cubs first basemanAnthony Rizzoteamed up with local Chicago restaurants to feed the staff at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago and Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Florida, with nearly 700 meals donated.

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns pledged $100,000 in donations last week to help the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota get more tests for the coronavirus to the public. On Tuesday night, Towns took to Instagram to share the news that his mom had been placed in a medically induced coma as a result of the virus.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiidpledged to donate $500,000 to COVID-19 medical relief efforts.

Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward and his wife, Erin, expressed gratitude for first responders and health care workers.

"On behalf of the Woodward family, we'd like to thank all of the first responders and health care workers all across the country and especially in the great state of Texas," Woodward said.

Soccer icons Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola all made donations worth 1 million euros to help overburdened health care systems deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Ronaldo's donation went toward buying equipment for Lisbon's Santa Maria Hospital, and Messi's and Guardiola's contributions went toward the health efforts in Spain, the second-most-affected country in Europe after Italy.

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