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49ers, Eddie DeBartolo each contributing $1 million to alumni-created Golden Heart Fund

The money will go to help support former 49ers going through tough times.

It is no secret that many retired NFL players go through tough times after their playing career comes to an end. Whether it be financial losses that leave players destitute, or the years of injuries leading to numerous medical problems, it is a huge issue the NFL has been slow to address on a league-wide basis.

Some former San Francisco 49ers players have decided something more needs to be done. Ronnie Lott, Brent Jones, Harris Barton, and Ron Ferrari have joined together to create the Golden Heart Fund. They will raise funds to help, “in providing relief for disadvantaged and distressed former players and their families nationwide, including but not limited to supporting both mental and physical health issues, disaster relief, and personal financial hardship.”

To kick things off, the San Francisco 49ers organization and former owner Eddie DeBartolo have each pledged to provide $1 million. Additionally, the 49ers will donate half of ticket proceeds from the “49ers Museum” to support the fund. It will go to assist any 49ers alumni, no matter how many seasons they played with the team.

Keena Turner said the Fund is mostly a formalization of what many have long done to help former teammates. We’ve heard plenty of stories about the generosity of Eddie DeBartolo in helping retired 49ers that are going through tough times. It is good to see this formalized to potentially help even more former players.

Here’s the full press release.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The San Francisco 49ers and Pro Football Hall of Fame owner Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr., today announced their pledge to support the creation of a charitable fund by 49ers alumni to assist other former players during times of need. The Golden Heart Fund will initially be directed by an alumni board consisting of offensive tackle Harris Barton, linebacker Ron Ferrari, tight end Brent Jones, and Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott who helped to spearhead the initiative and laid the groundwork through his All Stars Helping Kids Foundation.

In appreciation of the enormous contributions 49ers alumni have made to the organization throughout its 70-year existence, the York family and DeBartolo Jr. each have pledged one million dollars to support the Golden Heart Fund. In addition, the team has committed to donate one-half of proceeds from the sale of 49ers Museum presented by Sony tickets to support the fund. The proceeds will help aid the fund in providing relief for disadvantaged and distressed former players and their families nationwide, including but not limited to supporting both mental and physical health issues, disaster relief, and personal financial hardship.

“The San Francisco 49ers have always had a strong passion in assisting current and former players in all areas of their lives, and with the formalization of the Golden Heart Fund, that tradition continues,” said Harris Barton, board member of the Golden Heart Fund. “This fund will support our alumni as well as current and future 49ers through many of life’s unforeseen circumstances by providing assistance in times of need. We’re thankful for the support the 49ers organization has given us as we begin our work with the Golden Heart Fund, and look forward to giving back to those who have paved the path for so many players fortunate enough to wear the red and gold.”

“The 49ers family extends well beyond the football field, which is why supporting the Golden Heart Fund is a priority for our organization,” said 49ers CEO Jed York. “We have a deep-rooted sense of duty to support our alumni who have provided so much to our storied franchise and our Faithful fans. Family is there for one another in times of need and the formation of the fund will ensure our former players are cared for well into the future. What makes this program so special is that it is an alumni-led project that Harris, Ron, Brent, and Ronnie have championed and brought to fruition.”

“Make no mistake. History has its eyes on all of us,” said former owner of the San Francisco 49ers Edward DeBartolo Jr., at a dinner honoring his recent induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame hosted by the 49ers this November. “It is about the respect and gratitude that we have for these athletes who have given their all to this game. Athletes from other teams, but more important to me, athletes and friends that have given to this franchise. We’ve got to do all that we can do to look after one another and to take care of one another. Not just when the uniform is on but, more importantly, when the uniform comes off.”

The fund’s board will be in charge of the confidential process of evaluating and approving potential recipients of resources from the Golden Heart Fund. Alumni will apply for assistance directly to the Golden Heart Fund.