We touched on it a bit earlier Thursday in our “let’s argue” post, but San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman is the team’s nominee for Walter Payton of the Man of the Year. The award is annually given to a player demonstrating outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. The winner will be announced in Miami, FL, the site of Super Bowl LIV, during the ninth annual NFL Honors awards show, on February 1.
Blanket Coverage, the Richard Sherman Family Foundation, was formed in 2013 to help equip students from low-income communities with the necessary tools for success. After starting Blanket Coverage with an operating budget of $50,000, Sherman has now raised more than $1.5 million, which has helped over 70,000 students. In December 2016, Blanket Coverage launched the 25 for 2,500 initiative, donating $2,500 to 25 different charities with beneficiaries serving a range of missions, including foster homes, pediatric cancer, families experiencing homelessness, grieving families who have lost a child, creative arts, military services and more. Find out more here about Sherman’s foundation.
“To say I am honored to represent the San Francisco 49ers as the organization’s 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee would be an extreme understatement,” said Sherman. “From the moment I became a 49er, I recognized the unwavering commitment the team has to positively impact our community in a multitude of ways, in particular, its youth. I’m especially grateful to my parents for instilling the humanitarian values I carry with me today at a young age, and to my wife, Ashley, for being so passionate in those same beliefs and spearheading our family’s efforts. Our foundation, Blanket Coverage, will continue to work to make education and resources accessible to all children because of every child matters. Thank you to the NFL for creating this award, which continues to raise awareness for the tremendous work, so many players do daily to enrich the lives of others. Walter Payton embodied the spirit of community engagement, and I am humbled by this nomination and the opportunity to represent his legacy.”
Understanding the direct correlation between students’ academic performance and hunger, Sherman donated nearly $23,000 in October to the Tacoma School District to relieve the lunch debt of students who are receiving free or reduced lunch. In November, he donated over $7,000 to Cabrillo Middle School for the same cause. Additionally, since August, Blanket Coverage has provided 16 low-income schools and over 2,500 students with backpacks and school supplies.
In addition to the work that Sherman does with Blanket Coverage, he has been very active on his own throughout the Bay Area, specifically around social justice advocacy. In 2018, Sherman participated in the launch of a justice forum in Oakland hosted by the Players Coalition, which focused on district attorney candidates and the major role they play in the justice system. He is an active member of the 49ers Social Justice Initiative’s player’s council, which initiated the decision to fund a joint grant with Google.org to The National Center for Youth Law in support of the Santa Clara Youth Justice Initiative, which works to reform the way the country interacts with young people who come into conflict with the law. Most recently, Sherman visited incarcerated youth at Santa Clara Juvenile Hall with Fresh Lifelines for Youth to empower residents to change their narratives, channel anger into positive avenues, and access available resources to turn their lives around.
As a nominee, Sherman will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field.
All 32 nominees will receive a donation of up to $50,000 in their name to their charity of choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of their choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide’s 5th annual Charity Challenge, a social media campaign designed to support and promote team nominees. Fans can vote on Twitter by using #WPMOYChallenge, followed by their favorite nominee’s last name. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most between December 12 and January 12 will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, while the second and third-place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations, all courtesy of Nationwide. Hashtag information and official rules can be found at nfl.com/manoftheyear.