Athletes mobilize with a message: Stay at home

Vincent Schilling

World-class athletes include Notah Begay, Lauren Schad, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shy LeBeau, Lyle Thompson and more #ProtectOurCommunitiesStayAtHome

Professional PGA golfer Notah Begay III recently sent an urgent message to colleagues around Indian Country and posted messages and videos on social media stressing the importance of people staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Begay has labeled his effort #ProtectOurCommunitiesStayAtHome.

Native athletes joining the stay at home movement
Native athletes joining the stay at home movement include Shye LeBeau, Gabby Lemieux, Lyle Thompson and Lauren Schad.

In his messages to his colleagues and the press, Begay wrote:

“After following the news related to the impact that the COVID-19 virus is having on our Native communities, I decided to mobilize an information campaign using high-profile Native American athletes to send the message.

On reservations, many of our community members are NOT following safety measures and stay-at-home orders that are meant to minimize the spread of the virus. Due to lack of adherence to these safety policies, many more people from our communities are put at risk and in particular our elder population,” Begay wrote.

He also explained that he and other accomplished Indian Country athletes and allies would be working to get the message out via tribal governments and national leadership and youth organizations to help raise awareness about the seriousness of the coronavirus.

Begay worked with his nonprofit NB3 Foundation to launch a personal message.

Notah Begay III's message

Lauren Schad, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, is a professional volleyball player who earned a spot on the USA Collegiate National Team’s roster and received All-American honors. She is a Nike N7 ambassador and plays professionally in the top league in France. She has been in a countrywide lockdown since March.

Schad wrote in an email to Indian Country Today? that when Nike N7’s Sam McCracken approached her to join the effort, she was honored.

“I try to lend my support to Native-led awareness campaigns and had no hesitation with this one. I feel so removed from home, and this was one way I could help,” she wrote. “I wanted to make sure those following my sites in the U.S. and internationally heard the ‘Stay at Home’ instructions from me and to follow their communities' guidance to protect themselves and their relatives. Native social media has played an important role.”

She noted Begay is also using the NB3 Foundation to get much-needed resources into communities that are already experiencing barriers to food and other critical services.

“This is the way we get through this,” wrote Schad. “Natives supporting one another.”

Lauren Schad's message

Schad also sent a word of support to professional boxer and fellow Native athlete Shy LeBeau, who also is a nurse.

“She is providing an invaluable service to her community, and I wish her and all the other essential workers, health and safety,” Schad wrote. “I can’t begin to imagine the physical and emotional toll this takes on them and their loved ones.”

LeBeau, an upcoming boxing Olympic hopeful, also has recently shared on social media regarding the #ProtectOurCommunitiesStayAtHome effort.

Shy LeBeau's message

“We need to start abiding by these new laws they have in place now,” she says. “Being a nurse and a frontline worker, I see firsthand the (effect) that this virus is having on families, and those that have been infected by the disease.”

Professional golfer and Nike N7 ambassador Gabby Lemieux, Shoshone Paiute Duck Valley, also sent a video message out on her Instagram page stating, in part, “We will all get through this together.”

Gabby Lemieux's message

In her post, Lemieux says she is “encouraging all communities to adhere to safety measures and stay-at-home policies,” because she has family members who would be at risk if they were to contract the virus.

“The scary part is that this virus isn’t just taking the lives of our elders. It is taking the lives of our younger generations too.”

Professional lacrosse player Lyle Thompson, Onondaga, shared a message on his Twitter account.

Lyle Thompson's message

“We have a lot of elders, and a lot of them are still living in one household, (and) that makes it really easy for this to spread... so it is important for our younger generations to make sure we are following these safety precautions, practicing social distancing and staying at home,” Thompson said.

Begay noted sports can sometimes reach segments of society that politics and business can’t, particularly in Native communities, where many people have a high respect for athletes.

“You don't even have to be a collegiate or All-American or make it to the pros. You can be a high school champion, and you're still a champion within your community for the rest of your life.”

That’s one of the reasons he started the campaign.

“Our people need to understand that this is a serious situation, and so much of what’s at risk can't be quantified. You can't assign a value to it. What's the value of our languages and our stories and certain elements of our culture? You, you just can't assign a value to that.”

#ProtectOurCommunitiesStayAtHome #AloneTogether

Athletes with messages or have committed to post a message:

Shy LeBeau, Champion Boxer, Navajo/Sioux
Lauren Schad, Professional Volleyball, Cheyenne River Sioux
Temryss Lane, Former Professional Soccer and TV analyst, Lummi Nation
Lindy Waters III, OSU Basketball, Kiowa/Cherokee
Jacoby Ellsbury, professional baseball & world series champion, CRIT/Navajo
Lyle Thompson, World's best lacrosse player, Onondaga Nation
Jordan Nolan, professional hockey&Stanley Cup Champion, First Nations Canada
Gabby Lemieux, professional golfer, Shoshone-Paiute

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Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling, Akwesasne Mohawk, on Twitter @VinceSchilling and Instagram @VinceSchilling

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