The San Francisco 49ers have a strong history of philanthropy and community service. It is a priority of the organization, which is carried out daily through the 49ers Foundation, and every player on the team participates. But many players go beyond the work with the team and do work on their own. Safety Antoine Bethea takes that to another level.
Working in the community has been a part of Bethea his whole life. It continued during his time with the Indianapolis Colts and followed him to the 49ers. It is something that was instilled in him from a young age by his parents.
“[My parents] always gave back, even when they didn’t have a lot, said Bethea. “I just looked at the situation and knew if I were ever in a situation where I could give back to anybody in need or less fortunate, I would…I did a little bit in the community when I was on the Colts, and from there, my love for it just grew. I started my foundation in 2010, and any little thing I can do in the community, I love to do it.”
Bethea is referring to the Safe Coverage Foundation, which, according to its website, “is committed to providing access and resources for students to achieve their dreams of a higher education. We believe that by providing exposure opportunities, enrichment experiences, and the tools needed to succeed, we can change communities one child at a time.” It was started in Bethea’s hometown of Newport News, Virginia.
“I’m really just focusing on any city youth and continuing education,” said Bethea. “We take 40 kids on college tours annually. We give laptops to inner-city kids who lack the resources, lack the means to even see outside of their normal world.”
Helping kids in underserved communities seems to be the impetus for all of Bethea’s community work. Recently, he started a football organization for kids in his hometown in Virginia. The program includes a mentorship, tutoring, and ministry program.
“Back home we have five teams with kids ages 6 to 14. We have three groups of cheerleaders…Again, it’s just trying to give back to the young ones and just instilling in their minds early the force of community service.”
Bethea is getting the Bay area community involved as well. He just finished the AB41 Training Camp Challenge, in which fans volunteer in the community and post photos with the hashtag #AB41TCChallenge. He was going to pick one winner to two tickets to opening night of the season, but the response was so great, he ended up picking three.
This summer, Bethea hosted the first annual Antoine Bethea and Friends Celebrity Softball Game benefitting the Second Harvest Food Bank, an organization he’s been working with since he got to Santa Clara in 2014.
“When I was in Indiana, I had a group that I worked with and when I came out here, I just wanted to find a group that I could do some things with, and I connected with Second Harvest. …[A]ny chance that I can get to raise some money for them or I can. For Thanksgiving, actually we had a turkey drive. It’s a great working environment amongst the group.”
As an NFL veteran, Bethea has the opportunity to mentor some of the younger players on the importance of philanthropy, and he takes advantage of that opportunity.
“I might sit down with one or two and just tell them the importance of giving back. Even as a rookie, you might not see it, but just putting it in their mind and having them think about and maybe down the road it may be something you want to get into. It doesn’t have to be anything big…Like you say, as a vet, that’s what I’m here to do.”
He also has some things to teach them on the field.
“[I tell them] to be a pro at all times…Just letting them know that this opportunity, you can’t take it for granted. There’s a lot of people outside of the locker room that would love to be in your shoes and, like I said, to be a pro on and off the field.”
I don’t think that there’s a better pro to learn from than Antoine Bethea. He is definitely one of the good ones. Go Niners!
*All photos in this article provided by 49ers.com.