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The public perception of professional athletes tends to shift periodically. 

One minute they are idols to be revered and emulated; the next they are a bunch of entitled crybabies or violent monsters who should either keep their heads down and concentrate on the game or be prevented from playing at all.

In reality, professional athletes are neither gods nor monsters but human beings. Yes, a few may be violent, criminal, or display a lack of gratitude for their good fortune, but most are basically good people with minor flaws who have benevolent intentions. 

They appreciate what they have and do their best to share with those who are struggling. A few even have the courage to speak out against injustice when others would prefer that they stay silent. 

Here are a few athletes who have shown a determination to leave the world a little better than it was when they came into it.

Angel Collinson

Angel Collinson is a professional skier who attended the University of Utah, where she took on philosophy and environmental studies. 

She found herself increasingly concerned about the fate of the planet due to climate change while acknowledging her sport's significant carbon footprint. 

Nevertheless, she didn't know about the advocacy organizations Citizens' Climate Lobby or Protect Our Winters until they reached out to her and asked her to get involved. 

Since their goals were consistent with hers, she has been happy to use her position to raise awareness about issues related to solar panel cost and carbon fees in both the general public and in Congress through lobbying efforts.

Johann Olav Koss

Children in developing nations of the world face many challenges. There are organizations that help to feed them, educate them, and provide them with clean water and medical care, all of which are noble efforts. 

However, there are very few organizations devoted to helping kids do what they are supposed to do as youngsters: Play and have fun.

Right To Play is an organization that provides sports equipment to children in disadvantaged communities so that they can overcome the effects of disease, conflict, and poverty through play. It was founded in the mid-1990s by Norwegian speed skater Johann Olav Koss. 

Prior to the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, where he eventually won three gold medals, Koss made a visit to war-torn Eritrea, where he observed children playing among burn-out tanks with a rolled-up shirt. 

He promised to return after the Olympics with a proper ball for them to play with. He made good on his promise and then some, returning with an entire planeload of sports equipment. Right To Play was inspired by the grateful reaction of the country's president.

Rebecca Rusch

Rebecca Rusch is one of the foremost outdoor endurance athletes in the world. She was 3 years old when her father, an Air Force pilot, was shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War. 

As an adult, she applied her athletic skill to a 1,200-mile mountain bike journey searching for the site of her father's crash. Along the way, she found out that the country is still littered with unexploded ordnance despite the fact that the war ended nearly 50 years ago.

Today, Rusch works with the Mines Advisory Group, which focuses on clearing unexploded ordnance such as land mines. Her story is chronicled in "Blood Road," a documentary released in 2017.

LeBron James

LeBron James started gaining national attention on the basketball court as a high school student from Cleveland, Ohio. In 2013, he set a record by becoming the youngest player ever to score 20,000 points in NBA history. 

He actively supports organizations that help children, including the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Children's Defense Fund, and After-School All-Stars. 

His foundation partnered with financial institution J.P. Morgan Chase and the University of Akron to award students with four-year scholarships. 

James has also taken multiple stands against racially motivated police brutality but always on his own terms, not giving in to pressure from activists to protest by sitting out games.

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Most people, including athletes, are basically good. These are just a few examples of professional athletes using their position to promote positive change.

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