Birmingham Legion FC co-owner Lee Styslinger III helped source 20,000 N95 masks from China for the UAB Hospital at the height of the pandemic last month. | Photo courtesy Birmingham Legion FC
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – As it became clear that UAB Hospital could see a shortage of personal protective equipment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Birmingham Legion FC co-owner Lee Styslinger III decided he needed to act.
But for Styslinger, who also serves as Chairman & CEO of Altec, Inc., last month's route to help source 20,000 N95 masks from China at the height of the pandemic was certainly one that contained numerous twists and turns.
“We were faced with the fact that so many communities and cities throughout the U.S., including Birmingham, needed PPE,” Styslinger said. “Because the demand for these items was so high, we had to be very entrepreneurial and strategic about the process.
“We would feel confident that we would be able to get the masks, and all of a sudden, things would change, and we were back to square one. Many times, the PPE was directly bought off the source that we were trying to get it from, or someone would pay more or take it out of allocation.”
Styslinger and others – also including Marc Benioff, chairman of Salesforce – were able to connect with several sources in China, at one point setting up four potential options to acquire the necessary PPE. There were undoubtedly some nervous moments throughout the process, none more so than when a deal had been agreed upon, and Styslinger's team was left to wait for the package to be delivered after the money was sent.
“When the masks first shipped, there was this delay period in the transit process and we weren't sure when the shipment was going to arrive,” Styslinger said.
Was it worth the challenges and frustrations that occurred in the process? According to Styslinger, absolutely.
Birmingham Legion FC co-owner Lee Styslinger III talks with Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin at a Legion FC function. | Photo courtesy Birmingham Legion FC
“It was quite the adventure, but at the end of the day, because of the critical nature of what we were doing, we felt that we had to prevail,” he said. “Once we knew the packages arrived, it was one of the more uplifting moments I've ever had in my life. There aren't many activities you're involved in that are definitively life-or-death, and this had those types of implications if we weren't successful.
"Sourcing this PPE from China was a small sign of gratitude to our heroic healthcare workers. We deeply appreciate all the incredible work they are doing for our country.”
While Styslinger and his group were working to provide PPE to local care facilities, he's also been delighted with the efforts of Legion FC players and staff during the current suspension of the USL Championship season. The club's Birmingham Strong initiative has raised more than $2,000 for local groups through t-shirt sales. This program supports the message of staying home and staying safe as players, staff and fans alike wait for the chance to return to action.
“The inspirational lead and encouragement that the players and team are providing for kids, fans and supporters is unbelievable,” said Styslinger. “While we are all eager for Legion and other sports to return, the most important thing is to first take care of our community and businesses to keep everyone safe. Fortunately, the team has been very instrumental in making that happen here in Birmingham.”