This is the third year since I inaugurated the “Things That Really Matter Awards, for Good Guys Who Did Things to Benefit Society.” (Before the political correctness police and feminists jump all over me, a Merriam-Webster definition of “guy” is, “person — used in plural to refer to the members of a group regardless of sex.”)
In 2020, it took until the second week of January before I found a candidate to qualify for the award. It was Peggy Noonan for a few sentences she wrote in her column in The Wall Street Journal. While she concurred with President Trump regarding the takedown of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, Noonan defended the Democrats’ right to question the president’s action, and derided people like former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley for saying that “leading Democrats” were “mourning” the loss of Solleimani.
“Sometimes the greatest patriotism is to stand against the crowd to protect your country from ill-thought out actions. That is one of the harder forms of patriotism,” she wrote.
Cuomo Deserves Praise
Of all the people on the political scene, New York Gov. Cuomo deserves high praise. His leadership and policies during the coronavirus epidemic has been praised nationally by medical experts and has been followed by governors of other states. Only one person criticized him — President Trump. But eventually even Trump had to admit that Cuomo was doing a good job.
Making this list for the third straight year was Laurence D. Fink, chief executive of BlackRock, the global investment management corporation. Fink has been a corporate leader in advocating that corporations must consider how their actions will affect society. This time Fink announced that environmental sustainability will be considered as part of BlackRock’s investment decisions.
Others Deserving Praise
Others who deserved a place on the list were:
Sen. Mitt Romney, for having the courage to be the only member of his party to vote against President Trump in the Senate impeachment trail and during the House impeachment inquires.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for spending a small fortune of his large wealth on issues he deemed important to benefit the public.
Sometime people do not pay attention to medical advice until a major international figure speaks out about an illness or disease. Tom Hanks did so, when he announced publicly that he and his wife tested positive for the coronavirus. Good for him. Doing so put a non-partisan public face on the issue. He deserves a place on this list.
During my career as a sports journalist and sports marketing professional, I can’t remember a sports entity that deserved to be on an honors list until March 16, 2020. That’s when I heard that because of the coronavirus epidemic, Major League Baseball announced that its season would not begin until May, at the earliest. MLB deserves a place on this list for being the front-runner in the sports business of announcing a lengthy delay. And a shout-out to the 10,000 MLB employees for participating in a study to determine how many people in different states have been infected with the coronavirus.
Definitely deserving to be on this list is National Football League player Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the starting right guard for the 2020 Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. A medical doctor, Duvernay-Tardif was the first player to opt out of the 2020 NFL season to offer his assistance during the pandemic. He’s doing so at a long-term care facility in his native Canada.
The National Basketball Association (NBA), the Women’s Basketball Association (WNBA) and the players’ associations all deserve great praise for their very public and whole-hearted support for Black Lives Matter and social justice in the face of widespread criticism. With the careful planning of their “bubbles” in Florida, both leagues were able to complete their regular schedules and playoffs without major incident.
Dr. Fauci’s Straight Talk
Can anyone challenge my putting Dr. Anthony Fauci on this list? Some Trump supporters might because Dr. Fauci has provided straight talk about the coronavirus situation, unlike the president.
This might be the first time a little-known local politician deserved a place on this list, but New York’s Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro earned it. Molinaro, who ran as the GOP candidate for governor against Cuomo in 2018, put aside partisan politics. He said: “It’s uncharted waters, and he’s (Cuomo) providing the leadership necessary in what is a very trying time for us all,” according to an article in The Wall Street Journal on March 20.
A corporate “Good Guys” salute to the New England Patriots for cutting through red tape to use its team plane to deliver 1.2 million face masks in the initial stages of the coronavirus epidemic, with more to be delivered on another shipment because the plane was filled to capacity. Andrew Beaton’s article in the April 3 Wall Street Journal describing how it happened reads more like a fiction thriller than nonfiction reality.
And to basketball great Michael Jordan for contributing millions of dollars to organizations assisting Black people with social justice and greater access to education. And to local food banks during the Covid-19 crisis.
Also to super star Dolly Parton for donating $1 million in April to Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s efforts to combat Covid-19, which included Moderna’s vaccine trial and clinical research. Her donation was noted in the New England Journal of Medicine’s announcement of the Moderna’s results.
A deserved place on this list to Navy Captain Brett Crozier for risking his career by asking for help to contain the coronavirus aboard his ship, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, to save the lives of sailors. His request was leaked publicly, and Capt. Crozier was fired for not going through the proper chain of command.
And to New York City landlord Mario Salerno for telling tenants in his 18 residential buildings in Brooklyn that because of the adverse economic conditions caused by the coronavirus, they don’t have to pay April rents. He told them, reported The New York Times, to “… make sure that everyone has food on their table.”
Kudos to five governors for their leadership during the coronavirus situation: Democrats Andrew Cuomo of New York, Jay Inslee of Washington, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and especially Republicans Larry Hogan of Maryland and Mike DeWine of Ohio. They had the courage to do what’s best to protect the citizens of their states and ignore those who said that the virus was not a big deal.
A corporate salute to Allstate Corp., the first large insurance company, for announcing that it would return 15% of April and May auto payments in shelter-in-place checks because of the drop in accident claims caused by less driving during the epidemic.
Another corporate salute to the business leaders on President Trump’s reopening America task force for telling the president what he didn’t want to hear: More testing is necessary before the economy can be reopened.
A Double Salute
And a double salute: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed at least $250 million to help develop an effective coronavirus vaccine, and again to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for using part of his fortune to team up with John Hopkins on a virus contact program.
One method to clean up a tarnished reputation and gain a place on this list is to do good, as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (and Priscilla Chan) did by donating $300 million to protect the U.S. elections. As reported in The New York Time’s Dealbook column, “The donation is one of the couple’s biggest ever, with the bulk going to a nonprofit that will focus on recruiting poll workers, buying protective equipment and setting up drive-through voting. It’s almost as much as the amount Congress allocated to election security in the CARES Act.”
Zuckerberg also said that Facebook will also take steps to prevent fraudulent election advertising and victory claims on its site and stop running political advertising a week prior to Nov. 3. This is a conditional listing because Facebook for years has allowed so many right wing untruths on its site.
It’s unusual for Big Pharma to receive a pat on the back, but it deserves a place on this list for the pharmaceutical companies’ joint statement that they would not send a Covid-19 vaccine for government approval until they are certain that it is safe, despite President Trump’s statements that there would be one by Election Day.
Likewise, it’s unusual for the sports industry to be awarded for doing good. But, I’d be remiss, if I didn’t give a shout out to the industry for making available its stadiums as voting venues.
Let’s recognize Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia Secretary of State and a Republican, for calling out Sen. Lindsey Graham and others for pressuring him to throw out legal mail in ballots in an effort to swing the state to Trump. If there was an Integrity Award list he would be at the top.
Also deserving a place on this list is Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling, a Republican, who publicly criticized the president for not condemning threats of violence against election workers. He told the president, “Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence,” before someone gets “hurt, shot or killed.” In addition, he called on Georgia’s two GOP senators to condemn the untruthful rhetoric, which they still hadn’t as of this writing.
I salute all “Good Guys” — individuals and organizations — who did the right thing in this difficult year – and especially the courageous health care and frontline workers who risked their health and the health of their families. They have all earned our heartfelt and unreserved thanks and praise.
Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.