|ESPN.com: NFL||[Print without images]|
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell joined the growing list of celebrities and sports stars to accept the "ice bucket challenge" on Tuesday when he doused himself with a bucket of ice-cold water in the name of ALS awareness and fundraising.
Goodell was challenged by former NFL linebacker Scott Fujita, who works closely with former New Orleans Saints teammate Steve Gleason as part of the Team Gleason foundation. Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2011 and has since become a world-renowned leader in the efforts to find a cure for the disease and improve the lives of patients with incurable neuromuscular diseases.
"I want to thank Scott Fujita for nominating me for the ALS ice bucket challenge. I'm honored to accept the challenge and make a donation on behalf of Team Gleason," Goodell said in a video clip before challenging Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Hall of Famer Michael Strahan to douse themselves next.
The ice bucket challenge has become a viral sensation after it was started by former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who has ALS - more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Fujita credited Goodell for being such a big sport and delivering "in a big way."
"Roger's always been very supportive of Steve and Team Gleason. I don't know if everyone realizes that," Fujita told ESPN.com in a telephone interview. "He's always reached out to me to ask, 'Hey, how's Steve doing? Is there anything I can do to help out with the foundation?' So that's always been there.
"And then when I got challenged to do the ice bucket challenge a few days ago, I thought, 'I'm gonna challenge Roger. I'm gonna go big with this one.' And I sent him a text over the weekend, and without hesitation he just said, 'I'm in.' So he's just a good sport. I don't think a lot of people get to see that side of him. And obviously he delivered in a big way."
Fujita and Goodell have been adversaries at times, including the Saints' bounty scandal in 2012 and the CBA negotiations in 2011. But they gladly teamed up this time.
"Obviously the commissioner and I have had our disagreements in the past," Fujita said. "But that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of things we can see eye to eye on, and areas where we can work together. And I think a group like Team Gleason and Roger and the NFL working together to find answers for ALS, that's something everybody can agree on."
NFL players like Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Victor Cruz and Julian Edelman, coach Chuck Pagano and owner/executives Jim Irsay and John Mara are among the many others who have taken part in the challenge -- along with other sports stars and celebrities, including Justin Timberlake and Martha Stewart. The idea is to either accept the challenge or make a charity donation -- or ideally both.
Reportedly, donations have increased substantially to ALS foundations around the globe. Fujita said the response -- both financially and just "igniting the conversation" about ALS -- has been outstanding for everyone who is working to fight the disease.
"I don't think anyone thinks this disease is incurable," Fujita said. "It's just underfunded, as Steve always says."
Later Tuesday, Saints quarterback Drew Brees also accepted the "ice bucket challenge," posting video of him getting soaked while diving on the ground. Saints coaches Joe Vitt and Rob Ryan also get soaked in the video.
I accepted @HodaKotb #ALSIceBucketChallenge today and I now challenge @BobbyGindal @BubbaWatson @TheEllenShow http://t.co/LUNhVqHTZo- Drew Brees (@drewbrees) August 12, 2014