Joe Haden Named Special Olympics Global Ambassador

Joe Haden celebrates with fans after a game. Haden has become the first NFL player to be a Global Ambassador for Special Olympics.

Ken Blaze/Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

BEREA, Ohio – Browns defensive back Joe Haden has been named Special Olympics’ newest Global Ambassador as announced by the organization. Haden is the first professional football player to ever hold the Special Olympics Global Ambassador distinction.

Haden will support Special Olympics throughout the year, including this week in Arizona as he promotes acceptance, inclusion and respect for individuals with intellectual disabilities during his first appearances in the new role. He will also advocate for participation in Special Olympics Unified Sports and serve as a co-captain on the recently announced Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America that will kick off on May 26.

“I am honored and proud to raise awareness for the Special Olympics movement as a Global Ambassador during one of the largest sporting events in the world,” said Joe Haden. “Growing up, my brother had the opportunity to participate in the Special Olympics movement and through my involvement, I learned first-hand the tremendous value of playing sports with, and learning from, people with intellectual disabilities. It’s a cause I’m truly passionate about.”

The two-time Pro Bowl selection is also active in the Browns First and Ten initiative, the team’s community program that inspires fans to help their communities throughout the world by pledging to #give10 by volunteering for at least 10 hours each year. Through First and Ten, the Browns are the only NFL club to promote a long-term volunteering program that unifies the team and its entire fan base, with the goal of impacting every individual’s city across the globe, as well as the franchise’s local community. For more information, visit ClevelandBrowns.com/community.

In 14 games last season, Haden totaled 69 tackles, 17 passes defensed, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and one blocked field goal. Since joining the Browns as the seventh overall pick in 2010, his 84 pass breakups are the most in the league during that span.

Haden will be joined in Phoenix by Vanessa Robles, a Special Olympics athlete who will be competing for Team USA in the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles this July. Together, they will share their personal experiences with Special Olympics Unified Sports and educate fans and media on the benefits of today’s youth without intellectual disabilities playing, learning and growing alongside those with intellectual disabilities.

“We are excited to welcome Joe Haden to our Special Olympics family. Through his brother Jacob, Joe has seen and experienced firsthand how sports can build fitness, confidence and skills among Special Olympics athletes and how sports can break down barriers and build respect and inclusion in the community,” said Peter Wheeler, Chief of Strategic Properties, Special Olympics. “Joe has become a staunch advocate of and believer in the transformative power of Unified Sports. We are thrilled that he will be joining us in such a visible way as a Global Ambassador to promote our year-round efforts to build a unified generation through sports.”

Haden joins a prestigious list of Global Ambassadors including Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco, Nadia Comaneci, Elena Delle Donne, Scott Hamilton, Padraig Harrington, Yuna Kim, Yang Lan, Damian Lillard, Yao Ming, Ricardo Montaner, Dikembe Mutombo, Hidetoshi Nakata, Apolo Anton Ohno, Michael Phelps, Hannah Teter, Vanessa Williams, Hidetoshi Nakata and Yang Yang.

About Special Olympics:

Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. It empowers people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all.  Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 4.4 million athletes in 170 countries. With the support of more than 1.3 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 81,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org.

About the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015:

With 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing 177 countries, along with 30,000 volunteers and an anticipated 500,000 spectators, the 2015 Special Olympics World Games – being staged in Los Angeles July 25-Aug. 2, 2015 – will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world in 2015, and the single biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games. The 2015 Special Olympics World Games, with the unparalleled spirit, enthusiasm, teamwork, joy and displays of courage and skill that are hallmarks of all Special Olympics events, will feature 25 Olympic-style sports in venues throughout the Los Angeles region. The Opening Ceremony, to be held July 25, 2015 in the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games, is expected to attract 80,000 spectators. For more information on the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, including volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, visit www.LA2015.org.