Global athletes using their money, platform to plead for support against COVID-19

As the novel coronavirus continues to wreak havoc, athletes from around the globe are issuing rally cries against the growing pandemic.

Despite the absence of pro sports and the recent postponement of the Olympics, some of the world's biggest stars are turning to social media in the hopes of mobilizing fans and supporters against the spread of COVID-19 — which has killed more than 22,000 people with nearly a half million people infected worldwide.

One of the most passionate pleas has come from UFC star Conor McGregor. On Wednesday, the mixed martial artist pledged to donate more than $1 million US in personal protective equipment to hospitals in Ireland.

The donation followed a rousing set of pleas from McGregor on social media, calling for a true global lockdown.

"We must close our airports. We must close all non-essential business. We must end all non-essential travel," McGregor urged in a Facebook post on Tuesday. "I know a good fight when I see one and we have got one on our hands now."

Nadal, Gasol lead Spanish charge

In Spain, tennis great Rafael Nadal and former NBA star Pau Gasol are hoping to raise more than $12 million to help the fight. Spain is one of the most badly affected countries with more than 56,000 cases and, along with Italy, shares the highest fatality rate.

In response, Nadal and Gasol have launched an initiative to support the Red Cross in procuring protective equipment and infrastructure to assist vulnerable families affected by the virus. "I think that we're the athletes that we are in large part because of (fan) support and now is that time that your athletes don't fail you," Nadal said in Spanish.

Nadal, Gasol and McGregor have joined a growing chorus of athletes looking to lend a hand.

On Wednesday, Roger Federer announced a donation of more than $1 million to vulnerable families in his native Switzerland.

Argentina's Lionel Messi and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola have also donated to help clinics and medical centres fight the outbreak, while Cristiano Ronaldo has given life-saving equipment to Portuguese hospitals.

Brees to help feed people in Louisiana

In the United States, the NFL's Drew Brees has committed $5 million to help the state of Louisiana.

On Thursday, the New Orleans Saints QB and his wife Brittany announced that they were planning "to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana for as long as it takes to children on meal programs, seniors, and families in need."

The move comes a week after New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson also made a personal donation of $1 million to assist hospitality workers in the state facing unemployment due to COVID-19.

Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson has pledged to cover the salaries of his team's arena workers for 30 days while the NBA season is suspended.

And in Germany, four soccer clubs have pledged nearly $22 million to support other teams struggling to stay afloat after games in the country were suspended because of the outbreak.