Criminal Behavior

Perhaps the title of this post is a bit bold but I have always said it’s criminal if people have the means and ability to give back and make a difference, and don’t do anything. For years I have watched the salaries of professional athletes skyrocket to the point of ridiculous, obscene, and yes – criminal. I am a big sports fan and I understand that professional sports is both a business and entertainment, but where do we draw the line?  It is hard to watch the back to back news stories which talk about a crises such as what we are seeing in Haiti followed by a story about salary arbitration between the millionaires (the athletes) and the billionaires (the franchise owners).

I’m sure there are many examples of athletes and owners using their fortunes in ways that really are making a difference. Philadelphia 76er Sammy Dalembert is a perfect example of someone reaching deep into his own pockets to aid the crises in Haiti. There are others, some are public about their efforts to give, some very private. But there are others. This rub isn’t against every athlete and every owner, but it is about the lack of a general standard of giving or expectation by the owners that their players and organizations need to step up and do more.

Many larger organizations have a certain expectation of their executive management team. And that expectation is that they will donate a portion of their very generous salaries to those not so fortunate. I have always hoped that there might be a similar expectation amongst professional athletes. Last night I asked that very question of a guy with nine years of NFL playing experience under his belt and the answer that he gave me made me a little nauseas. Sadly, there is no such expectation of the multi million dollar athletes who are being paid to play the games that they love so much.

In fairness, what he also said was that in times of a true crises, such as Katrina, or Haiti, etc. players will often band together and chip in a charitable donation to a relief effort. That’s great and very commendable. But this is typically done only in the time of a disaster and may only be a few thousand dollars from each player who may earn mega millions. There is no standard set by the owners, or the players unions to encourage players to use their resources in ways that really matter. Why? Who knows. And more importantly, I wonder if we change this.

Although the guy that I talked to last night was only speaking first hand about the NFL, he felt pretty comfortable that the same situation exists among most teams across all of the major sports. I would like nothing more than to be wrong on this, but unfortunately I think I am dead on. Purely out of morbid curiosity, there are a few more people associated with the four major sports organizations (MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL) that I will have similar conversations with, but I think I already have my answer.

So, here is my plea to the players and owners out there who have bankrolled their future for generations to come. And I mean no disrespect to those who are making a difference. But we need greater involvement.

You guys are role models and hold in your hands the keys to be able to make a significantly huge difference in this world. There is crises and need all around you. Some of you practically have to step over the homeless sleeping on the streets to get to the stadium. Please don’t look the other way. Please don’t leave behind a legacy measured only in yardage, points, rebounds, or home runs. Leave behind a legacy that is measured by the lives that you saved, the people that you have reached, and the opportunities that you have provided to others. Use what you have in ways that really matter. Pay it forward. Make a difference.

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