Obstacles to health and freedom exist, it’s our job to overcome them.

It is hard to believe that I am living through a global pandemic that has been caused by  a respiratory disease. In its wake, we have lost more than 182,000 lives and sadly, that number has probably grown significantly since I wrote these words. Too many families continue to struggle with grief, adverse economic impact, and the loss of “normal” as we knew it. As coronavirus spreads deeper across America, the pandemic has shined a spotlight on the health disparities within our most underserved populations. Studies from across the nation show the coronavirus is disproportionately infecting and killing people in Black and Latino communities.  Racial inequities in the pandemic is just one symptom of the larger issue at hand. 

Today our nation continues to deal with the consequences of racial injustice and social unrest. Atrocious acts against too many of our brothers and sisters have led to ongoing peaceful protests, which too often have been marred by violent outbursts from the outside. As a result, our national pastimes including the NBA playoffs, MLB and other professional and amateur sports clubs have paused – walkouts which plainly show their support for healing and improving justice in our country. Many athletes and sports professionals, including me, are speaking out against the relentless racial inequities and hope to be part of a long-term solution and healing for our country.

Like so many other families in our country, I share the task of trying to make sense of all the tumult in the country to my children. It is my job to protect them and make them feel safe. It is my responsibility to contribute to the betterment of this world so they can return to school and be with their friends without fear of COVID-19. It is my most important duty to ensure a better life, so they can live without judgement based on the color of their skin. As a father, I am to inspire them, set a strong example of leadership just like my father did for me. 

Having asthma could have potentially stopped me from realizing my dream of becoming a professional athlete. The day I was diagnosed was also the day I learned my dad, Tony Gwynn, an MLB Hall of Famer, had asthma. I saw him use an inhaler for the very first time and realized that if he could play baseball at that level, I too could achieve my major league dreams. And I did. 

One of the most important things I can do for my family and community is to lead by example. And, as we all navigate these uncertain times, I’m proud to lend my talent, time and efforts to the American Lung Association. Along with my fellow San Diego and Los Angeles Board Members, I stand strong with the Lung Association to overcome COVID-19 and to ensure that our communities of color can live and breathe easier. Here’s how:

  • The Lung Association has led the way as the first public health organization to commit $25 million to end COVID-19 and to prevent future respiratory pandemics.
  • Because they understand that lung disease does not discriminate between races, genders or orientation, the Lung Association formed a broad-reaching Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council. This council works to ensure the Lung Association continues to deliver our mission and programs to diverse communities, understanding all too well that lung disease burdens communities of color and the poor disproportionally.
  • And just this week, behind the leadership of the Lung Association and a strong statewide coalition, the California Assembly unanimously approved one of the strongest prohibitions on retail sales of all flavored tobacco products, noting the health and economic benefits of reducing youth smoking and vaping. Big Tobacco, which has preyed upon the health of communities of color for decades by shady marketing practices of mint and menthol cigarettes fought vigorously, but their words rang hollow against the testimony of health experts and those whose lives have been forever changed by the ravages of tobacco use. 

I’m encouraged and inspired by the long-standing commitment of the Lung Association to ensure lung health for all, along with taking a firm stand for diversity and equity. This important work must continue, and I am committed to using my time, talent and voice to ensuring a world free of lung disease. 

In that spirit, I am pleased to announce Champions Unite: a broadcast event featuring professional baseball players from across Southern California to fund the American Lung Association’s vital work. Fans across the country can join the interactive fun by supporting their favorite players as they perform their off-field talents and compete for your votes!  I promise it will be fun, and more importantly, the funds raised will be used toward ending COVID-19 and preventing further respiratory pandemics in the future.  Because, as the Lung Association says, if you can’t breathe, nothing else matters. 

Register today to stay in the loop: Champions Unite

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