Legends of Their Sport: 20 Top Retired Athlete Philanthropists – Inside Philanthropy

Legends of Their Sport: 20 Top Retired Athlete Philanthropists – Inside Philanthropy

Gabrielle Union & Dwyane Wade. Featureflash Photo Agency/shutterstock
For the nation’s top athletes, personal fortunes can include the millions they raked in during their playing days, as well what they continue to make once they hang it all up. In fact, many have far more lucrative second acts post-retirement.
In 2016, for example, Michael Jordan became the NBA’s first billionaire player or former player, currently worth $1.7 billion. Notably, his cumulative salary during his career was an underwhelming $90 million (athlete pay has gone up considerably since then). But he’s earned $1.8 billion (pre-tax) from corporate partners like Nike, Hanes and Gatorade, per Forbes. His Airness also became co-owner of the Michael Jordan-Denny Hamlin NASCAR team during the pandemic. Didn’t see that twist coming.
Other retired athletes sitting on serious funds include culinary legend — pardon me, pugilist — George Foreman (estimated $300 million), racing legend Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (estimated $300 million), former Yank Alex Rodriguez (estimated $350 million), and Magic Johnson ($620 million estimated). Even athletes a bit further down the food chain often do quite well for themselves post-retirement, such as former NFL kicker Matt Stover, who made a smooth transition from his playing days to become a successful investor and philanthropic advisor to his peer athletes.
In recent years, we’ve compiled lists of philanthropic athletes, league by league, including the NBA, the NFL, MLB, and more. A recurring theme in our coverage is that these figures, on the court/field and off, are making their mark on the philanthropic sphere through established foundations, and using their platforms to advance causes important to them. These days, more of them are getting started during their careers, but as is the case for many wealthy professionals, others really only get started once they’re retired.
Recently, we did a rundown of top-earning current athletes turned philanthropists. Here’s a rundown of top retired athlete givers across sports. While they’re not in any particular order or ranking — it can be difficult to tell how much these athletes are donating out of their own pockets — those on the list made it because they found financial success on or off the field and have track records of philanthropic activity that may continue to grow down the line.
Michael Jordan, NBA
MJ had a family foundation during his playing days. But after a bit of lull — at least as far as what’s public — Jordan has been making major donations since the mid 2010s, including a $2 million civil rights gift to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), and a $5 million gift to Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Jordan and his Jordan Brand will commit $100 million over the next 10 years to organizations assisting Black people with social justice and greater access to education. MJ has also shown major interest in health philanthropy, giving $7 million to fund two Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Clinics in Charlotte. In 2021, he gave $10 million to open two additional family health clinics on the southeastern coast of North Carolina.
Magic Johnson, NBA
With an estimated net worth of $620 million, Laker legend Magic Johnson launched the Magic Johnson Foundation all the way back in 1991 — the same year he announced to the world that he tested positive for HIV and would be retiring from the sport. The foundation develops programs and supports community-based organizations that address the educational, health and social needs of ethnically diverse, urban communities. It also works in raising AIDS/HIV awareness, treatment and prevention. His Magic Johnson Enterprises is worth an estimated $1 billion.
George Foreman, Boxer
Former heavyweight champion George Foreman pulled off an unlikely upset versus Joe Frazier in Jamaica in HBO Boxing’s first-ever broadcast. After his boxing career, the legend became a preacher and used his entrepreneurial skills marketing the George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine, which has sold over 100 million units around the world. He is worth an estimated $300 million.
On the philanthropic front, Foreman launched George Foreman Youth and Community Center in 1983 as a safe space for at-risk kids. The boxer himself was born in an impoverished area in Houston, so the Foreman Charitable Foundation focuses on his Texas community, including providing scholarships for local youth.
Lisa Leslie, WNBA
In 1997, Southern California hoops legend Lisa Leslie was drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks, where she would spend her whole career. Lisa Leslie works with the Kay Yow/WBCA cancer fund, which focuses on breast cancer and is named after Yow, a coach for the North Carolina State women’s basketball team. Leslie also works with My Liver Cancer Options, a program and website that shows users their options and provides additional information about cancer. The motivation here is personal, as her stepfather passed away from the disease. She’s also involved with Vaccines for Teens.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR
A third-generation NASCAR champion, Earnhardt stopped racing full-time late last decade and can now sometimes be found doing NBC Sports Group’s NASCAR coverage. The North Carolina native is worth an estimated $300 million. He moves philanthropy through the Dale Jr. Foundation, which focuses on empowerment, education, wellness, hunger and hope. The foundation supports over 300 charities nationally and locally, including Make-A-Wish Foundation, Children’s Hope Alliance, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Blessings in a Backpack, Dove House, and FeedNC.
Peyton Manning, NFL
Legendary Colts quarterback Peyton “The Sheriff” Manning established the PeyBack Foundation in 1999 with his wife Ashley. The foundation’s mission is to promote the future success of disadvantaged youth, working in regions with personal connections to the family, including Colorado, Indiana, Tennessee and Louisiana. The foundation has made more than $15 million in grants and programs since its founding, including supporting Boys & Girls Clubs, after-school programs, summer camps and foster children.
Alex Rodriguez, MLB
Legendary slugger Alex Rodriguez is worth $350 million. He once moved philanthropy through the A-Rod Family Foundation, but the current status of the charity is unclear. In the early 2000s, Rodriguez donated $3.9 million to renovate the University of Miami’s baseball stadium, Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, and to fund a scholarship program for Boys & Girls Clubs alumni to attend the University of Miami. He joined the university’s board of trustees in 2003. In 2017, Rodriguez pledged $500,000 to the University of Miami Business School. He’s also supported Florida International University to provide scholarships to first-generation, college-bound students.
Billie Jean King, Tennis
The first woman athlete to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, tennis legend Billie Jean King co-founded the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974 to advance the lives of women and girls through sports and physical activity. It works in research, advocacy, community programming and a wide variety of collaborative partnerships. When Title IX, the landmark civil rights law that protects against discrimination based on sex, turns 50 in June, WSF will have invested over $100 million in women and girls. Billie Jean King also started BJK Leadership Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the critical issues required to achieve diverse and inclusive leadership in the workplace.
Jack Nicklaus, Golf
Retired professional golfer and golf course designer Jack Nicklaus, 82, won some 120 tournaments during his career and is worth $400 million by some estimates. Jack and his wife Barbara Nicklaus founded the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation in 2004 in an effort to provide families access to world-class pediatric healthcare. The foundation supports Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami and innovative programs focused on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of childhood illness. The foundation has raised over $150 million to advance pediatric initiatives.
Floyd Mayweather Jr., Boxing
Michigan native Floyd Joy Mayweather, Jr. made a killing as a lightweight and welterweight phenom, and is worth an estimated $450 million. He also owns a NASCAR Cup Series team. On the philanthropic side, he launched the Floyd Mayweather Jr. Foundation, which aims to create community alliances, impact youth leadership, promote health and wellness, and strengthen families through community development, business skills and education.
Roger Staubach, NFL
Heisman Trophy winner and Navy veteran Roger Staubach joined the Dallas Cowboys as a 27-year-old rookie with a starting annual salary of $25,000. He played for the Dallas Cowboys for more than a decade, during which he was selected to six Pro Bowls, led his team to two Super Bowl victories and was the Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl VI. Staubach was one of the NFL’s most popular players during the 1970s and remains one of the wealthiest NFL players of all time, with an estimated wealth of $600 million.
Most of his money, though, comes from his off-the-field acumen. He starting working as a real estate broker for Henry S. Miller Co. after his rookie season and went on to launch his own commercial real estate business, the Staubach Company. His Staubach Family Foundation has focused on Catholic causes, education and youth, and cancer research — with an eye toward Dallas. Staubach has also steadily supported the Children’s Cancer Fund. The current status of the foundation is unclear.
Swin Cash, WNBA
University of Connecticut star Swin Cash was drafted second overall in 2002 by the Detroit Shock, where she was one of the game’s early stars. During her playing days, Cash was one of the first in the WNBA to don a Black Lives Matter T-shirt, even incurring a fine to do so. She founded Cash for Kids, a youth nonprofit that focuses on physical fitness, nutrition, education, cultural trips and sports camps. She also launched Cash Building Blocks, an urban development company that renovates and offers affordable homes for low-income families.
Andre Agassi, Tennis
The even-tempered (just kidding) tennis legend Agassi launched the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education to provide educational opportunities and resources to underprivileged youth. In the early 2000s, the foundation opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy (Agassi Prep), a public charter school that provided children in Historic West Las Vegas with a first-class K-12 education. The foundation later handed over the reins of the school to Democracy Prep.
Dwyane Wade, NBA
Retired Heat legend Dwyane Wade remains in the spotlight on TNT’s Inside the NBA. He and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union, have been outspoken about LGBT rights. The couple made a series of donations to organizations supporting healthcare for the LGBTQ community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wade’s World Foundation provides support to community-based organizations that promote education, health and social skills for children in at-risk situations.
Mia Hamm, Soccer
Women’s soccer trailblazer Mia Hamm is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion. She runs the Mia Hamm Foundation, which promotes awareness and raises funds for families in need of a bone marrow or cord blood transplant. The motivations here are personal, as her brother passed away from complications of aplastic anemia. Mia Hamm also co-founded Athletes for Hope in 2007 with athletes including Muhammad Ali, Cal Ripken Jr. and Andre Agassi.
Tony Hawk, Skateboarding
Tony Hawk founded the Skatepark Project in 2002 to create public skateparks, particularly in low-income areas. The nonprofit has awarded some $6 million through the years. Approximately 600 skatepark projects in the country have received funding from the organization, which was renamed from the Tony Hawk Foundation in 2020.
James Blake, Tennis
Retired American tennis star James Blake was once ranked fourth in the world and made late-round appearances in the U.S. Open and Australian Open. Blake’s father, Thomas Blake Sr., passed away from gastric cancer in 2004. Since 2008, the James Blake Foundation has supported the efforts of the Thomas Blake Sr. Memorial Research Fund, which works for early detection research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering.
Kristi Yamaguchi, Figure Skating
Legendary Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi started the Always Dream Foundation in 1996, focusing on after-school programs for young children to improve reading and literacy skills. The foundation also provides support to underprivileged children and summer camps for children with disabilities.
Jalen Rose, NBA
Michigan Wolverine “Fab Five” member turned Indiana Pacer, turned ESPN/ABC analyst Jalen Rose has enjoyed a long life in basketball. Rose launched the Jalen Rose Foundation/Charitable Fund to create life-changing opportunities for underserved youth. He also founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, an open enrollment, tuition-free public charter high school on the northwest side of Detroit. JRLA began its first academic year in 2011 and currently serves over 400 grade nine through 12 scholars in Detroit.
Lindsey Vonn, Skiing
The recently retired Olympic skier started the Lindsey Vonn Foundation to provide scholarships and programming for education, sports and enrichment programs to give future generations the tools they need to achieve their dreams. The organization also aims to fund more girls camps and foster leadership skills through speaker series. 

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