Athletes assist in tsunami relief efforts

Posted: Monday, January 03, 2005

NFL teams joined Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and other sports figures around the world in assisting the disaster relief mission for the tsunami-earthquake catastrophe with a death toll that is expected to reach 150,000.

The Baltimore Ravens collected $51,475 from fans at their game against the visiting Miami Dolphins on Sunday, with the team adding another $25,000. About 60 volunteers carried white contribution buckets at stadium entrances, and the Red Cross said the money will be used for food, clothing, shelter, hygiene kits and mental health counseling.

''There were so many lives lost, so many homes,'' said fan Mike Gifford, who made a donation at the stadium. ''It's one of the worst disasters ever, and we should help.''

Volunteers also accepted donations at Sunday's game in Seattle between the Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons. The New York Giants, through the humanitarian aid group AmeriCares, planned to collect money before their game Sunday night against Dallas. The team partnered with that organization after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In Chiang Mai, Thailand, Wimbledon champion Sharapova beat four-time major winner Williams in an exhibition match that began with a 30-second tribute to victims of the deadly waves. Nearly 5,000 are confirmed dead in Thailand.

After the match, held hundreds of miles from the country's battered beaches, the players auctioned their rackets for about $2,500 each.

The Chennai Open in India, among the ATP Tour season openers, will proceed despite several thousand dead along the coastline. Organizers believe canceling the event would hurt morale in the area. The ATP, the governing body of men's tennis, is contributing the $25,000 tournament fee to UNICEF's emergency relief fund.

''This is the fourth time I'm going to play here in Madras, but believe me it wasn't easy to come here this time,'' 1998 French Open champion Carlos Moya said. ''A lot of feelings and emotions came into perspective.''

In other sports events aimed at disaster relief:

The American Red Cross collected donations at college football's Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl on Saturday.

Sri Lanka's national cricket team cut short a New Zealand tour and visited refugees Sunday. The team went to welfare centers and hospitals. About 28,500 people died in Sri Lanka.

Germany's four-man luge team donated the $2,150 in prize money for its victory in a World Cup event Saturday in Oberhof, Germany.

Several hundred people on the Madras coast were among more than 9,000 people killed in India. Three players — Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman, Germany's Rainer Schuettler and India's Mahesh Bhupathi — have pledged prize money from the Chennai Open, where the champion collects $52,000.

''We felt that we should do our bit for the victims in our own small way,'' Bjorkman said. ''The horrific tragedy is impossible to fully comprehend or put into words.''

Associated Press Writers David Ginsburg in Baltimore and Sandeep Nakai in Madras, India, contributed to this report.

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