NEW ORLEANS — As part of the kickoff of WrestleMania 30 Week, WWE Superstars Titus O’Neil and Alex Riley, WWE Divas The Bella Twins and WWE Chief Branding Officer Stephanie McMahon joined a group of extraordinary athletes for a Special Olympics Unified basketball game at Tulane University Wednesday.
In front of an excited crowd of students from area schools, O’Neil and Brie & Nikki Bella coached teams of Louisiana Special Olympics athletes and partners in a fun-filled game of basketball. Riley watched from the sidelines, calling the action for the fans in attendance. O’Neil was very confident about how his team was going to perform beforehand.
“We’re going to go out there and play hard, have fun and win,” he said.
O’Neil’s strategy wasn’t working out for his team in the beginning, as the Bellas’ team jumped out to an early lead. At halftime, The Big Deal encouraged his team with a rousing speech that worked to great effect, as his group of athletes rallied to take the lead in the second half. However, Brie & Nikki’s team drove to the hoop just before the clock ran out, giving Team Bellas the win with a last-second layup.
Even though his team didn’t win, O’Neil was still excited about the opportunity to work with such great athletes.
“It’s a huge honor,” he said. “It’s one of the most fun things that’s a part of being a Superstar, giving back with something as huge as Special Olympics. Their hard work and dedication motivate not only me and the other WWE Superstars, but the people around them. It brings everyone together.”
It was also a big moment for Riley, who was taking part in his first Special Olympics event. He said it was the best part of his WrestleMania Week.
“I’m a big fan of these kids being able to come out here and compete,” Riley said. “To see them come out and compete like Superstars, it makes it feel like there’s a special bond between WWE and Special Olympics.”
Athletes from Louisiana and the rest of the United States will get a chance to show off their hard work and dedication this June at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey. WWE is a Founding Partner of the Games, and will take part in the promotion and production of the events, including a television special. Many Superstars and Divas will participate in the festivities surrounding the Games, as well.
For more information on the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games, visit www.2014specialolympics.org.