YSU Foundation hosts special pre-screening of movie

Youngstown State University alum John Paul Vincent “Sonny” Vaccaro and his career at Nike are the focus of the new major motion picture “AIR” which will be released in theaters worldwide April 5. During his time at Nike, Vaccaro transformed the athletic shoe industry and signed Michael Jordan to his first shoe deal, launching the Air Jordan brand. 

Through Vaccaro, the Youngstown State University Foundation hosted a special pre-screening of the movie on March 30 at Golden Star Theaters – Austintown Cinema in Austintown, Ohio. 238 members of the YSU community including students, student-athletes, YSUF donors and YSUF staff gathered for the private viewing which included a recorded interview with Vaccaro prior to the movie. The invitation-only event was one of only five early showings of the movie around the country.  

Vaccaro, who was born and raised in Trafford, Pennsylvania, graduated from YSU in 1962 with a bachelor of science degree in Health and Physical Education. He then went on to become a sports marketing executive at Nike, Adidas and Reebok.

He founded the ABCD All America Camp which operated from 1984 to 2007, featuring the top high school basketball prospects in the country and also founded, with Pat DiCesare, the Dapper Dan Roundball Classic, which was the first national high school all-star game. 

Vaccaro’s story was also featured in an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary in 2015 called “Sole Man.”

Vaccaro has also been an outspoken advocate for the rights of college athletes, recruiting former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon for an antitrust class action lawsuit against the NCAA for its use of the name, image and likeness of student athletes for commercial purposes. The ruling on the case set the stage for NIL rules that the NCAA enacted in 2021.

Vaccaro and his wife Pam established an endowed scholarship in memory of Pam’s sister, Mary Jo, in 2021 at the YSU Foundation.