Thank You, NFL Players

RJ smiling for a photo; he has on glasses and a blue polo.

I want to tell you a story about a kid who fell in love with sports at a young age. About a kid who had dreams of making a difference. A kid who was willing to do whatever it took to achieve that dream, but who was also just trying to keep up with everyone else.

I had high expectations for myself. I respected the challenge to prove myself each and every day. The odds were stacked against me, but none of that mattered. I had goals and set expectations to meet those goals. If I failed—which happens in life—I tried again. And again. No excuses.

I found Special Olympics roughly 15 years ago. It started with basketball and swimming, then football. I had championship dreams. But, when I decided to hang my cleats up, I started advocating and sharing athletes' stories. All my life, I was the athlete. Now I was on the other side, using my voice and words to create change.

You see, Special Olympics isn't just about sports; it's much more than that. It is a stepping stone to advance in the world—a place for those with intellectual disabilities to share their stories. Through Sport. Health. Education. And Leadership.

"Special Olympics allowed my voice to be heard."
RJ Nealon

Without Special Olympics, I wouldn't be where I am in life. I will graduate from the University of Alabama with a degree in sports journalism with a minor in communication studies with a 3.4 GPA. Special Olympics helped me believe in myself. It helped me stay motivated. I had purpose I was fighting for.

Every day, a Special Olympics athlete breaks down a barrier they’re faced with. Every day someone's dream becomes their reality. Every day with inclusion, it becomes more than just a game.

None of that would be possible without your support throughout the NFL.

Over the weekend, the NFL allowed players to wear custom cleats to raise awareness for causes they support, a part of the "My Cause My Cleats" campaign.

While you could have chosen any cause to represent with your cleats, you chose Special Olympics, an organization that provides athletic competition for individuals with intellectual disabilities. It's an organization that touches so many lives throughout the world. An organization that shows no discrimination.

Now the weekend is over and the world heard your message.

No words describe the feeling I get when I see those cleats in action—just pride. There are no barriers when it comes to sport.

People are listening. People are watching. Change is happening.

Thank you, players, for standing behind me. For standing behind all Special Olympic athletes. For being a voice for change. For realizing athletes are athletes despite different abilities.

The truth is, together, we can change the world. No matter where you're at in the world, we can all play a role in those efforts.

You did that.

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