From Rivers to Sutter, L.A. celebrities, teams promoting 2015 Special Olympics World Games
Los Angeles and many of its sports stars and teams are embracing the Special Olympics and its athletes.
From Doc Rivers to Darryl Sutter to the Angels and Ducks, celebrities and sports teams are lending their names and power to promote this summer's event in Los Angeles.
"The mission of these games is to create awareness that leads to the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities," said Pat McClenahan, president and CEO of the L.A. 2015 Special Olympics World Games organizing committee. "We're in a city full of movie stars and athletes, but these athletes will be the stars of this show."
Clippers coach Doc Rivers was a fine example for creating awareness when he recently told reporters they were doing a poor job promoting the Special Olympics World Games being held in Los Angeles.
You can imagine the joy from McClenahan when he heard Rivers was on the campaign trail for Special Olympics awareness.
That kind of impromptu advertising is priceless for the event.
"I understand last week he was really outgoing with the press," McClenahan said. "Anybody like him who has been touched by the Special Olympics knows the impact it can have on a community, companies and employees.
"People who get involved, you show up as a volunteer here to help the athletes. At the end of the day, it's like who's helping who? It's perspective on what's important. It's part of our big push for fan development and fans in the stands."
Fans can attend the World Games for free. Special Olympics organizers make it easy for people to come cheer on their athletes.
Los Angeles' sports teams, personalities and coaches are getting involved, along with Rivers, who is on the leadership committee.
Last week, Maria Shriver -- whose mom, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics -- asked Kings coach Darryl Sutter and his son, Chris, to carry the flag in Los Angeles in the relay leading up to the games.
Chris Sutter has Down Syndrome and has participated in two of Canada's Special Olympics games as a member of Alberta's bowling team. The Sutters are happy to be involved, and Chris Sutter was all smiles after his conversation with Shriver. Darryl Sutter, too.
The Lakers, Dodgers, Angels and Ducks are lending a helping hand as well. McClenahan said the Special Olympics are still looking for sports personalities to lend their name, and they're working on sponsorships from companies throughout Los Angeles.
Recently, he and Olympian Rafer Johnson made a presentation to city leaders at the LA Chamber of Commerce annual dinner at L.A. Live. Johnson, 79, is a beloved Olympian in Los Angeles -- he lit the cauldron flame at the Coliseum to kick off the 1984 Olympics.
"Rafer is an amazing human being and a national treasure," McClenahan said. "He doesn't get the accolades he deserves because he doesn't draw attention to himself. His accomplishment is humility and love four our athletes. He's a remarkable human being. He's committed to serving people with intellectual disabilities.
"The image of him carrying the torch and lighting the cauldron in the 1984 Olympics just ties the Olympic spirit to these games."
They're a great example of creating awareness that leads to acceptance and inclusion," McClenahan said. "Chris has had a platform through players and his dad for people to see him in the (NHL) All-Star Game and realize what a great human being he is, how enthusiastic he is and what love he has for hockey.
"And on top of that, you see the love that a dad has for his son. There's so many lessons there. What he's been able to do to create that awareness, that's what we want to do for the World Games."
Rivers has been involved with Special Olympics for decades, having been a flag bearer in the 1987 Special Olympics in South Bend, which were hosted by Notre Dame.
He's not just lending his name. He's involved.
"Can you guys please get the message out that the World Games are coming to L.A.?" Rivers asked reporters recently. "I'm going to chastise all of you, and I'm serious. We've done an extremely poor job, to me, of letting everyone know the World Games (are here).
"This is the Olympics. It's the same thing. We need the excitement in this city. We need people to come out. Kids from all over the world are coming. We've got to get our hands in this, everybody in L.A. This is a really neat thing for the city of L.A. to showcase the city of L.A. but more importantly for these kids ..."
And that's big for the Special Olympics, which will host 7,000 athletes from around the world representing 4.4 million Special Olympians. There are an estimated 200 million people with an intellectual disability.
"The World Games are going to be crazy, first and foremost," Chris Paul said. "I had an opportunity to go an opening ceremonies event at CAA last year. The kids that are going to be here, they have dreams just like us all."
The exhilaration is palpable.
When Tairek was at the Clippers game against the Nuggets on Jan. 26, as a guest of the Clippers, he was all smiles -- it was his first Clippers game. The only thing better than his Blake Griffin-autographed shoes was a seat in the locker room postgame. Griffin even gave him his own nickname.
"Thanks for coming 'T' ," Griffin told him.
Austin Rivers, Matt Barnes and the rest of the Clippers gave him high-fives on the way out. A Special Olympics representative then gave Rivers, Griffin, Chris Paul and others black T-shirts with the Special Olympics logo in the hallway of Staples Center afterward.
The logo is unmistakable.
"The celebratory figure in the center represents courage, determination and joy of our athletes," McClenahan said. "The celebratory pose is the symbol of praise and accomplishment of celebration. People who are born blind instinctively have that pose when they're excited.
"The great thing about the Special Olympics is that often the fourth, fifth and sixth finishers strike that pose like they set a world record when in actuality they just did their best."
And some high-profile Los Angeles athletes and sports figures are doing their best to help promote these games, which are expected to become the biggest event in the city since the 1984 Olympics.
Los Angeles lost out on becoming the United State's bid to host the 2024 Olympics. Boston won those honors, but Los Angeles still has the Special Olympics.
A special event worthy of promotion from some of L.A.'s biggest sports stars.