Until Tuesday, Jan. 12, Jozy Altidore's Twitter account featured the type of information that you would expect to be disseminated by a 20-year-old American soccer player in the English Premier League. He thought Daybreakers, the new vampire pic, was "wack." He was taking a nap. He was sorry for showing up late to a match, tardiness that prompted a one-game suspension. That update caused him to be docked two weeks' pay, as the Hull City manager, Phil Brown, felt the reason for his benching ought to have stayed "in house."
Then came the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti that by some estimates has killed as many as 200,000 people. Altidore was born in Livingston, N.J., but his parents emigrated from Haiti and Jozy has several times visited the many relatives he has there. Altidore's tweets turned serious immediately after the earthquake. He told his 170,000 followers how to donate money to relief efforts, relayed news and provided them links to his Haiti-related TV appearances. "Anybody fortunate enough to do something prominent for a living can use that sort of platform to influence people, and now's the time to do it," he says.
Other pro athletes with Haitian roots have employed social media during the disaster's aftermath. Colts receiver Pierre Garçon, who paraded around Lucas Oil Stadium bearing Haiti's flag after his team's win last Saturday (page 44), is offering autographed merchandise at garconauthentic.com in return for donations. "It's an easy way—a great way—to get help for people that need it," he says. Altidore and Garçon promise to keep the story front and center. "Courage courage frem yo! Mwen remem nou kembay for pa lagay Haiti!" Altidore tweeted last Thursday, which means, in Creole, "Courage, courage my brother! I love you all hold on don't let go Haiti!" That's a use of social media even Phil Brown could support.
To donate to relief efforts in Haiti, go to the website of the American Red Cross (redcross.org) or that of Partners in Health (pih.org).