RENTON, Wash. - The Seattle Seahawks announced today QB Russell Wilson as the team's nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide. Considered one of the league's most prestigious honors, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. Each of the league's 32 nominees were announced today.
On the field, Wilson has led the Seahawks to consecutive Super Bowl appearances in 2013 and 2014, including the franchise's only title in 2013. He is a seven-time Pro Bowler, has been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week a franchise record 11 times, and holds 25 major franchise records. He has been voted team captain eight-consecutive seasons, won the team's Steve Largent Award three times (2014, 2018, 2019), and was previously nominated as the team's NFL Man of the Year nominee in 2014.
During his nine-year career in the NFL, Wilson's steadfast commitment to helping those in need has been extraordinary. Wilson's numerous philanthropic efforts include:
COVID-19 Response Efforts: Throughout this unprecedented year, Wilson has supported numerous community causes during the pandemic, including:
- In direct response to the increased challenges families experienced as a result of COVID-19, Wilson became laser-focused on how his fellow Americans - including children, families and the elderly - were losing access to food because of school closures, lost jobs, illness, and reduced wages. He and his wife and Ciara pledged a personal donation of 1 million meals to Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States.
- He also partnered with aviation company Wheels Up in March to launch the Meals Up initiative to help support the growing levels of food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis. The ongoing effort has already raised the equivalent of more than 47 million meals for Feeding America (as of October 2020) and has inspired several large gifts as well.
- His Why Not You Foundation ("WNYF"), partnered with United Way Worldwide, Rockefeller Foundation, and Door Dash to expand Ride United to deliver food and supplies to vulnerable populations in 175 communities in the United States. Since the program's launch in April 2020, over 1 million deliveries have been made. The Seattle program, nonexistent before this year, has become the "pilot program," for a model to be used across the country and, through a partnership with Safeway and Albertsons, the program has expanded beyond food banks to include grocery stores. Due in large part to his involvement and innovation, Seattle will soon become the region that distributes the highest number of food boxes.
- Simultaneously, the isolation caused by the pandemic exposed the inequities and injustices people of color experience in our country at levels never seen before. Wilson chose to use his platform to encourage change. He was motivated to bring awareness to racial injustices and encourage everyone to be part of positive change. In June, he captivated the world with his moving monologue to open the 2020 ESPY Awards with a plea for the end of systematic racism. At the same time, Wilson and Ciara secured billboards and digital message boards in communities across the country reading, "Black Lives Matter, Love Russell & Ciara."
- Wilson again chose to use his platform for good throughout the fall to focus on the importance of voting, especially among young people and communities of color. He and Ciara partnered with the campaign I AM A VOTER to encourage NFL fans to register to vote. He was personally instrumental in bringing the campaign to NFL players, coaches, and staff across the league and secured 100% participation by the Seahawks organization.
Beyond the challenges of 2020, Wilson is well-known for his ongoing philanthropic work via various platforms, including:
- Why Not You Academy: On Oct. 28, 2020, the Wilsons announced the foundation of the Why Not You Academy, a tuition-free public charter school set to open in fall 2021. The school will be located in Des Moines, Wash., just south of Seattle. The school, a first of its kind, will reimagine education by co-constructing an innovative network of mentorship-based, deeper learning schools with the communities they serve.
- Seattle Children's Hospital Projects: Since his rookie year, Wilson has visited Seattle Children's Hospital every Tuesday during the season. To date, Wilson has visited over 600 pediatric patients. Additionally, Wilson served as the team captain for "Strong Against Cancer," the pediatric cancer research program at Seattle Children's Hospital. The fundraising initiative, which launched six years ago, reached its goal of raising $100 million. His foundation and its partners collectively donated over $9 million for the campaign through its annual golf tournament and local partnerships. During these trying times, Wilson continued his weekly visits with patients at Seattle Children's Hospital virtually.
- Friends of the Children: As a result of the $1 million donated to WNYF by his clothing line, Good Man Brand, Friends of the Children, has opened two new chapters in the Pacific Northwest. Friends is a mentoring organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of generational poverty through mentorship. Funding has been used to generate a new two generation model to support both youth and parents for 12 + years and prevent the number of youths entering the foster care system. The efforts together have led Friends of the Children to an 86 percent high school graduation rate versus 77% in Washington and 49% nationally for those in the foster care system.
- Why Not You Scholars: WNYF's "The Dream Big" campaign donated $100,000 to create the Why Not You Scholar program. Through this program, scholarships are awarded to first-generation college students who would not otherwise have the financial support to attend post-secondary education.
- Support of the Arts: In 2018,WNYF partnered with the Seattle Symphony, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, to raise over $1.4 million to create access and opportunity to the arts for children in the community.
"I think it's so important to give back and to serve, because God has given me an amazing opportunity to love and make a difference. Where much is given, much is required. The reality is I have been blessed with the opportunity to bring a smile to a young kid's face. Along with my team at the Why Not You Foundation, we have really been dedicated to uplifting youth, improving the health of the youth, and helping impact education positively to provide more opportunities for youth," said Wilson. "It's been really important for Ciara and me, especially with everything that's happened in 2020, to step up and try to make a difference in areas like racism, social injustice, and food insecurity and to be able to impact a family that is facing tough challenges. Since I got here in 2012, I understood there was an opportunity to use my platform to love, serve, and give back. That's been one of the core principles of life that my parents taught me. It's a principle that Ciara and I want to be able to teach not only our kids, but their kids one day."
As the team nominee, Wilson 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.
For the third year in a row, all 32 team winners will be highlighted as nominees and recognized for their important work during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LV. The 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a primetime awards special to air the week of Super Bowl LV, on CBS.
All 32 nominees will receive a $40,000 donation 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 6th 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 Dec. 10 and Jan 17 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. New this year, fans can win NFL Shop gift cards and additional money for their favorite nominee's charity. Each Monday during the #WPMOYChallenge, Nationwide will ask fans to respond on Twitter with their favorite nominee and one randomly selected fan each week will win a $100 NFL Shop gift card and $2,500 for their favorite nominee's charity.
More information about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award can be found at http://www.nfl.com/manoftheyear.
Russell Wilson's community service efforts have been numerous and varied, a big reason he has received the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and 2022 Bart Starr Award. Take a look at photos of Wilson in the community from throughout his time with the Seahawks.