BIRDLAND — Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli, the team’s environmentally savvy activist, slipped behind enemy lines as part of a delegation of professional athletes to visit the Gulf Coast to explore the oil spill today.
Deep in the heart of New Orleans Saints territory, the boat Mughelli was on left from Myrtle Grove, Louisiana.
The group took a tour of the damage caused by the spill.
“On the whole boat ride you could see the booms trying to protect the coast, the wetlands and the marsh, but they weren’t doing the job,” Mughelli said via phone. “It wasn’t working 100 percent. There was still oil in the marsh. You can see where the oil had got into the pits of the marsh and devastated it. You could already see the process of where it was eroding the soil.”
Mughelli knows there are more environmental problems than what he could see from the boat.
“There is so much more going on underneath and that’s the scarier part,” Mughelli said. “There is twice as much going on underneath the water. There is more than what we can do with the resources that we have right now. It was a little disconcerting.”
Mughelli hopes to stress the connection between sports, health and a clean environment and why a full clean up could lead to more clean and renewable energy.
“I’m thrilled with the chance to come out here and see what’s going on first hand,” Mughelli said. “One of the most important things that you can do as an athlete is to make sure that other athletes, young and old, have a chance to do what we are doing, have clean water, have clean air, have clean beaches if you want to run on them to train. If we are supposed to be the responsible adults I feel like we are not doing our job right now. I’m very disappointed to see what we are leaving behind for the next generation to clean up.”
Other athletes on the tour included ex-NHL goalie Mike Richter, ex-Tampa Bay running back MikeAlstott, NHL player Andrew Ference, X game snowboarder Krista Bradford Ference, ARCA/NASCAR driver Leilani Munter, Olympic skier Stacy Cook, Olympic hammer thrower Loree Smith, Olympic race walker Gary Morgan and tennis star Chanda Rubin.
“This is not a (President Barack) Obama’s problem,” Richter said. “This is not a (British Petroleum) problem. This is everybody’s problem.”
Mughelli has been busy this offseason doing environment-friendly activities through his foundation. In addition to camps in Atlanta and his hometown of Charleston, he helped with a green event on Tybee Island.
The motto of Mughelli’s foundation is “our future is green.”
“I wish I could do more personally, but all I can do is spread awareness, help bring resources to the problem and hope that it is a wake-up call for us to move toward renewable energy, move away from oil and do right by our kids,” Mughelli said.