In recognition to the outsized impact that Minnesota sports stars have had on the national conversation towards issues of equity and social justice over the past year, Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Barr are two of the four finalists for the 2022 Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award.
The other two nominees are Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals and Brad Stuver of Austin FC. The award celebrates athletes who are using sports to make an impact on local, national or global communities.
Nelson Cruz, a member of the Twins at the time, won the 2020 award.
Towns was recently named a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion finalist by the NBA while Barr was nominated as the Vikings' 2021 Walter Payton Man of the Year for his community efforts.
Barr is currently a free agent, but the longtime Vikings linebacker started the Raise the Barr Foundation in 2016 with his mother Lori Barr to provide education opportunities for single-parent families. They provide scholarships along with emergency grants for single-parent students. Raise the Barr has been involved with the Jeremiah Program in Minneapolis and Barr has also worked with the Minneapolis Juvenile Detention Center.
"The Minneapolis community really embraced me as one of their own, and it was only right to give back," Barr said last year. "That's kind of what we're trying to do: just show our gratitude for the last five, six, seven, eight years that I've been here. It's heartwarming, man. It makes you want to continue to do good work, because you know it's working."
Towns, the Timberwolves All-Star forward, has been an advocate for equity in health care — specifically around care and treatment for COVID-19. His mother Jacqueline Cruz-Towns died after contracting coronavirus in April 2020; Towns worked with the NBA on public service announcements around COVID-19 vaccines along with providing 100 COVID-19 testing kits to 50 schools in Minnesota and New Jersey. Towns also donated $20,000 to the George Floyd Memorial Foundation in July 2021.
"This is an extremely humbling honor to be named a Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award finalist," Towns said in a statement after receiving the nomination. "Ali was a true change agent and humanitarian in every sense of the word; a social force who fought for the marginalized and inspired much of my community activism. I am honored to be among this list of athletes doing impactful and inspirational work."
The winner will be announced as part of the ESPYs on July 20.