Charity-minded NIL collective aiming to support Georgia Tech athletes

A Georgia Tech graduate and a former Yellow Jackets star running back, Dorsey Levens has closely followed his former team and its meager fortunes of late.

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That is why he lent his name and support to a charity-based collective that will raise money to reward Tech athletes for taking part in and promoting charitable works.

“Just wanted to give back to Georgia Tech in any way,” Levens said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Obviously, I’m a big football fan, and the football team has been struggling the last couple years. Any way I can help the guys in the athletic department, help coach (Geoff) Collins or (athletic director) Todd Stansbury to help Georgia Tech get back on track, I want to do what I can to help.”

The collective, named Jackets for Atlanthropy, was launched in May by Bo Stapler, a Tech alumnus (2005) and self-described unwavering Jackets fan. Its aim is to provide honoraria to Tech athletes for taking part in charitable activities, such as making meals for the homebound or serving at a soup kitchen, and promoting participation through social media. The plan is not dissimilar from collectives that have formed at other schools that offer compensation to athletes for supporting charities.

“And with NIL, it's not really the school that needs to adapt. It's the fans and the supporters because the university itself and the athletics department, they can't directly do the NIL stuff. It's got to be from the outside."

- Bo Stapler, a Tech alumnus and self-described Jackets diehard fan who launched Jackets for Atlanthropy

It may strike some as peculiar to provide compensation for doing charity work, but that is one way in which fans of teams have been trying to support college athletes, who since July of last year have been allowed by NCAA rule to be compensated for the use of their name, image and likeness.

“Absolutely,” said Stapler, a doctor living in Billings, Mont., and a donor to the athletic department’s Alexander-Tharpe Fund. “It’s one of those things that, the landscape is changing and so you’ve got to adapt, and hopefully that’s something that can help (Tech) athletics adapt a little bit.”

Four members of the football team – defensive tackle Zeek Biggers, wide receiver Leo Blackburn, linebacker Trenilyas Tatum and offensive tackle Jordan Williams – have joined to take part in and promote coming charitable events. The first two are in support of Open Hand, an Atlanta charity that prepares and delivers meals to people who are at-risk or have a disability or illness.

All four will take part in meal packing, Biggers and Blackburn on July 18 and Tatum and Williams on July 27. On the Jackets for Atlanthropy website (jacketsforatlanthropy.com), fans can sign up to join them, as well as for another event at the Saint Francis Table soup kitchen Aug. 6.

“I think one thing that is definitely a point of emphasis is they’re not being paid to volunteer,” Stapler said. “They’re being paid for their name, image and likeness and their ability to draw volunteers, which is the benefit to the charity.”

It is Stapler’s aim that athletes ultimately will be compensated – Jackets for Atlanthropy will make a donation to the charity, which will pass along the money to the athlete after completing the activity – between $1,000 and $2,000 for each engagement. Stapler said donations are tax-deductible and that the goal is for close to 90% of proceeds go to Tech athletes.

Another goal for the initiative will be for every Tech athlete to be supported, regardless of the sport. That aspect was appealing to another former Tech athlete of note who joined the board, former Jackets basketball player Niesha Butler.

“I loved (Stapler’s) vision, love what we’re doing, and I want to, of course, promote women’s sports,” said Butler, who was a high-scoring guard for the Jackets from 1999 to 2002.

Butler recalled her own experiences at Tech, when she and teammates engaged in acts of charity such as visiting a shelter for battered women.

“So just making sure that we not only do the very well-known (charities), but to actually make a difference in the community is one of the things we’re focused on,” said Butler, who is the CEO and founder of a business that offers camps and classes in science, technology, engineering, arts and math (S.T.E.A.M. Champs).

Besides Open Hand and Saint Francis Table, Stapler also is working to create partnerships with other nonprofits, such as Good Samaritan Health Center, Hands On Atlanta, Atlanta Mission and the YMCA.

Jackets for Atlanthropy joins at least two other similar groups formed in support of Tech athletes through NIL initiatives (Swarm the ATL and Jackets NIL Club).

Stapler said the group had received fewer than 50 donations but said donors have been generous. He called on fans to support Tech in the midst of a changing climate in college athletics.

“It’s kind of like places, schools need to adapt,” he said. “And with NIL, it’s not really the school that needs to adapt. It’s the fans and the supporters because the university itself and the athletics department, they can’t directly do the NIL stuff. It’s got to be from the outside.”