April is Autism Awareness month, and several of the nation’s most popular professional sports leagues are working together with Autism Speaks to bring autism awareness to the public focus. MLB, NBA, even NASCAR are marketing awareness campaigns within their own sporting events and commercial spaces.
MLB will be having each of its 30 teams raise awareness for the disorder during one home game in April or at another point in the regular season. Furthermore, the league will provide special opportunities in a safe, friendly environment for families and individuals affected by autism.
The NBA is raising awareness in a variety of ways. It will also have several teams host Autism Awareness nights during the month of April. On April 2nd, World Autism Awareness Day, Madison Square Garden and the NBA TV Studio were lit blue as part of the Light it Up Blue initiative, where more than 2,000 buildings worldwide were lit blue to raise awareness for the growing disorder. Similar to the pink ribbons used for breast cancer awareness, coaches and announcers on April 1st wore the blue Autism Speaks puzzle lapel pin, and did so again the following night during TNT’s national broadcast of the Dallas Mavericks vs. the Los Angeles Lakers basketball game.
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, and has grown tremendously since it’s inception in 2005. Autism, a general term used to describe a group of complex disorders of brain development, affects nearly 1 in 88 American children. It has been far more prevalent with boys (1 in 54) than girls (1 in 252), but still affects over 2 million American children, and tens of millions worldwide. While most cases of autism seem to be related to a combination of autism risk genes and environmental factors influencing early brain development, research is ongoing. That large, high profile sports leagues such as MLB and the NBA team up with Autism Speaks is a responsible initiative to generate fundraising and good visibility on such a important issue.