Author: Jonathan Turner
Charity poker has established itself as a successful and popular money-maker for charities and foundations across America and around the world.
Given its success, it is unsurprising that the rich and famous have included high-profile charity poker events as key parts to their fund-raising efforts for their foundations.
Few people in the world have larger platforms than professional athletes, who often boast a wide network of powerful and influential contacts as well as global fanbases.
That platform, however, can start to shrink once the playing days are over; once the athlete is no longer in the spotlight of the media and fans.
With that in mind, former Major League Baseball stars Kenny Lofton – who played in both the Cubs and the White Sox – and Torii Hunter – who is part of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame – co-founded the Still Got Game Foundation. It is aimed at maintaining the influence and relevance of former professional athletes who want to use their platforms to fund-raise for good causes.
“The name speaks for itself; we’re done playing, but we still have game off the field,” Lofton said. “Celebrities and athletes have a platform to help others in a positive way and change people’s lives, and we want to make sure that platform is still there for when we’re off the field.”
While the Still Got Game Foundation is still in the early stages, the organization has arranged its first fund-raising event: a charity poker tournament in Cleveland that will feature, among others, former MLB stars Bobby Bonilla and Ellis Burks, and TV actor from Two and a Half Men Charlie Sheen.
Bonilla, World Series champion in 1997 with the Florida Marlins, might have some spare chips to gamble, since he is right now enjoying one of the most curious retirement plans in baseball history – involving a contract with the Mets that only expires in 2035.
Anyway, Still Got Game will also host a second charity poker tournament in Napa, California with another former MLB player and manager Dusty Baker, who won the World Series in 1981, with the LA Dodgers. He also managed the Chicago Cubs, who are also likely to feature in the biggest stage of baseball, according to bookmakers.
Staging a charity poker tournament as the foundation’s first event makes sense given the success charity poker has had for various foundations, particularly for charities founded by current and former sports stars, who channel their athletic competitiveness into the card game.
One of the foundations that Still Got Game has surely used for inspiration in launching their fund-raising efforts with a charity poker tournament is the TGR Foundation, set up by Tiger Woods.
The TGR Foundation’s most high-profile annual event is Tiger Jam, which comprises a concert, golf, and a charity poker tournament. Since its launch in 1998, Tiger Jam has raised more than $20 million and the charity poker event has been central to those fund-raising efforts.
Lofton and his colleagues at Still Got Game may have even taken their inspiration from even closer to home. Since 2014, Major League Baseball has hosted its own charity poker event to raise money for the Major League Baseball Players Association Players Trust.
While baseball has clearly embraced charity poker as a legitimate avenue for fund-raising, the NFL has not traditionally been as enthusiastic. They banned its players from competing in similar events in 2011 so the NFL odds of joining such events are not high.
While Still Got Game is yet to determine where they will channel their focus, a charity poker event is undoubtedly a smart and logical way to launch, given the success of similar events for similar foundations.