Student Well-Being

Sports Figures Rally Around Flint, Mich., During Water Crisis

By Bryan Toporek — February 01, 2016 2 min read

On Thursday, Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores announced an initiative to raise at least $10 million to help the community of Flint, Mich., during its ongoing water crisis.

Gores, a Flint native, plans to focus on three main components with his private sector campaign: providing immediate support for short-term relief efforts to provide safe drinking water; funding for programs that help children; and long-term support for revitalization of Flint and surrounding communities. His initiative will rely upon donations from business and civic leaders, although he has also pledged his financial and other contributions of his own, such as benefits at the Pistons’ arena.

“The issues facing Flint won’t be solved solely through government intervention and emergency support,” Gores said in a statement. “The private sector needs to play a role here, and I am committed to helping drive that effort. I grew up in Flint, my family has strong roots there, and I believe in the people who live there.”

Hundreds of children in Flint have elevated levels of lead in their blood, in part due to the state’s decision to switch to using the town’s water supply. As EdWeek’s Corey Mitchell recently detailed, nearly 5 percent of Flint’s infants and children now have elevated blood-lead concentrations, which can cause permanent IQ loss and developmental delays.

Gores appointed two of his associates—Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem and Mark Barnhill, a partner of Gores’ at Platinum Equity, to rally the support from business and civic leaders and identify where the funds should be directed. On Friday, he announced the distribution of the first $1 million in funds: $500,000 went to the Flint Child Health & Development Fund, $250,000 to the United Way of Genesee County’s Flint Water Fund, and $250,000 to the American Red Cross.

Gores isn’t the only sports figure to rally around the Flint community in recent weeks, however. Earlier in January, the Washington Redskins’ defensive line donated 3,600 bottles of water to Flint, according to nose tackle Terrance Knighton.

He told ESPN.com’s John Keim that upon waking up one morning, he texted his fellow defensive linemen about contributing. Within an hour, they had ordered the water bottles and sent them Flint’s way.

Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett, meanwhile, has assembled a group of 22 players to donate $100,000 worth of supplies to Flint, according to VICE Sports’ Mike Piellucci. Forsett and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith intend on coming to Flint in early February to “directly assist with volunteer efforts,” Piellucci reported.


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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.