The 49ers and Chiefs Super Bowl Stars Who Advocate for Animal Rescue · The Wildest

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These Super Bowl LVIII Stars Are Animal Rescue Champions — Whether They Win or Not

Here’s a play-by-play of the 49ers and Chiefs’ animal adoption advocacy.

by Sean Zucker
February 9, 2024
Humane Society Silicon Valley brought puppies to the see the San Francisco 49ers.
49ers player Dee Winters cuddles a pup from Humane Society Silicone Valley on January 27, ahead of this year’s pre-taped puppy bowl.
Photo Courtesy of @humanesocietysv

Super Bowl LVIII, which will see the Kansas City Chiefs face off against the San Francisco 49ers, is filled with ripe storylines. If the Chiefs win, Patrick Mahomes could cement himself as the official heir apparent to Tom Brady by nabbing three rings in his first six seasons as a starter. Alternatively, San Fran’s quarterback Brock Purdy has an opportunity to become the first-ever last pick of the NFL draft to win a Super Bowl, effectively establishing himself as the only relevant Mr. Irrelevant.

Then there’s the Travis Kelce of it all. Will he retire after winning the game, propose to Taylor Swift, or both? Regardless of the final result, however, each team’s most exciting plays this season have come from off-the-field activities. Sure, Christian McCaffrey is one of the most electric players of his generation, and Patrick Mahomes is a human highlight reel, but both organizations have built something much more meaningful than high-scoring offensives.

They’ve helped create awareness and adoption opportunities for shelter pets. So, before watching the two teams duke it out for the Lombardi Trophy, let’s recap the recent work the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers have done for pets off the gridiron.

San Francisco players volunteer at a local shelter

Last year, several players from the San Francisco 49ers kickstarted their offseason not by flying somewhere exotic to work on their tans (as I surely would have) but by volunteering at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV). Players, including linebacker Oren Burks and tight end Ross Dwelley, helped intake dogs from a rescue run and socialize other pups struggling to find a forever home.

The team also provided toys, food, and other supplies for HSSV’s Pet Pantry program which offers resources to families in Santa Clara County struggling with financial hardships. HSSV is the first shelter to achieve all of the 543 Guidelines for the Standards of Care in Animal Shelters put forth by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians in 2010. These standards were designed to help organizations recognize and meet their animals’ complete physical, mental, and behavioral needs. The 49ers have maintained their support for the organization, leading to this next philanthropic effort in the roundup.

The 49ers’ championship therapy strategy

Cut to a year later and the relationship between the 49ers and the HSSV is still going strong. Before the NFC Championship game on January 28th, the team hosted adoptable dogs from HSSV at their practice facility for “ puppy therapy.” The session was dual-purpose, helping ease stress for players heading into the crucial game while also, of course, promoting pet adoption.

It was certainly successful on the former as the team went on to win the NFC Championship for the first time in a decade. They then repaid the favor by later welcoming two other pups heading to their own Super Bowl of sorts. Sibling pups Niner and Frankie, both of whom will be participating in this year’s Puppy Bowl, visited the team’s facility to gain some last-minute insights before the big showdown.

“This competition is heartwarming and fun and plays a crucial role in highlighting the importance of adoption. We are grateful to the 49ers for their partnership and commitment to getting Niner and Frankie ready for the big game,” Humane Society Silicon Valley President Kurt Krukenberg said in a statement.

15 and the Mahomies’ work for the KC Pet Project

Shortly after entering the NFL, Patrick Mahomes founded his charity, 15 and the Mahomies, primarily out of a desire to improve the lives of local children. The organization has helped support Missouri branches of various established nonprofits, such as the Boys and Girls Club, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

The org has also been known to branch out and help others in need, including shelter pets. In 2019, the org teamed up with the KC Pet Project to battle pet homelessness in local Kansas City areas. Mahomes’s program provided pet food and other supplies for a year, along with some custom gear, for 15 families in need. During one weekend, the group offered limited 15 and the Mahomies pet bandanas at the KC Pet Project’s three locations to encourage adoption. This initiative eventually led to 64 animals finding their homes, per a 2021 report from the rescue.

Derrick Nnadi’s charitable victory dance

Unfortunately, Chiefs defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi will not be able to suit up for Super Bowl LVIII because of an injury, but his animal advocacy has already created a lasting impact. Regardless of his time on the field this Sunday, I’d imagine local shelter pups will be rooting for the Chiefs to win. See, Nnadi has a bit of a tradition after winning the Super Bowl.

Following his first Super Bowl victory in 2020, rather than heading to Disney World like so many champions before him, Nnadi turned his attention to a shelter. To celebrate his first ring, he offered to pay the adoption fees for every dog at the KC Pet Project. This ultimately led to over 100 dogs being adopted. Then, when the Chiefs won again last season, he ran the program back with the same offer. Nnadi says these actions were inspired by witnessing the journey of his own Pittie, Rocky, who struggled to adjust early on after spending time in shelters.

“Going through all that, it got me thinking about other dogs and what they’re going through — abused animals and dogs living in shelters that can’t seem to find a home. That’s how I got the idea,” he said in a statement released by the Chiefs.

Logan Ryan, still riding for shelter pups

From winning two rings with Tom Brady to intercepting the GOAT’s final pass as a Patriot for six, Logan Ryan’s NFL career has been nothing short of storybook. And after signing with the 49ers midseason, he now finds himself competing for another chip. But none of his on-the-field success is what led to him becoming The Wildest’s October 2023 cover star. Instead, it was his extensive animal advocacy performed through The Ryan Animal Rescue Foundation (RARF), specifically for Pit Bulls. RARF works with animal welfare organizations to promote and educate on adoption while offering funds for those who need it.

The organization initially grew out of Instagram posts he’d publish to encourage pet adoption. It’s a habit he’s yet to kick, as he took to the platform during the 49ers’ recent pet therapy session advocating followers to adopt a young pup named Tom. For Ryan, though, it all comes back to a responsibility he sees as inherent to his success. “I honestly feel fortunate to have a platform, and I try to speak for the animal volunteers, animal workers, and the animals who don’t have a voice,” he told The Wildest.

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and whose behavioral issues rival his own.

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