Two Cents: Athletes Should Provide More Hurricane Relief (9/02/2005)

(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)

In the wake of this week’s tragedy in New Orleans and the gulf coast, athletes as well as professional sports leagues and teams are chipping in to provide relief for Hurricane Katrina’s victims.

Florida State University is giving the proceeds ($75,000) from its pay-per-view game Saturday against Wyoming. The NFL and the Yankees each donated $1 million. The Packers loaded a plane full of generators and other emergency supplies, and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair is matching donations up to $1 million during their game against Tampa Bay.

You might think you’re fixing to dive into a ‘pat on the back’ piece, that’s going to trumpet these athletes and organization’s donations, where I’m going to tell you that they’re not all greedy and separated from normal society.

Well, you’re wrong.

While the contributions I listed are all worthy and will help those in need, my question is: Why can’t they do more?

Brett Favre and Steve McNair, who have families and homes that were hit hard by this disaster, pooled their resources and are sending a semi-truck filled with relief supplies to Mississippi.

I bet that set them back a bit. Are you kidding me? Steve McNair made $16 million dollars in 2002-03. $16 mil in one season, and all he can do is help fill a truck with supplies?

Peyton Manning, who was born and raised in New Orleans, made $19 million in 2002-03, and that was before he ascended to the rare air talk of “Greatest Quarterback Ever”. As far as I know he hasn’t contributed yet (at least I haven’t found anything in print). But what is $5 million to Peyton Manning? Not much, but it would be a lot to the people of his hometown.

Serena Williams is helping out. She’s going to donate $100 for every ace she hits the rest of the year. How generous. Earlier this week the big story was how she dropped one of her $40,000 earrings on the court during the U.S. Open. I hope she doesn’t go broke helping.

Baron Davis, who has more money than I need to know about (did you see his house on Cribs?), is going to break his bank by donating $50,000 to the Red Cross. I guarantee you he has at least three cars that are worth more.

The Dallas Stars are giving $10,000. I know the NHL is on its last legs, but $10,000? I guarantee you they have executives who have watches that cost more.

I would help out if I could. I really would. But I don’t have any money. I can’t afford to keep my phone and cable turned on. I also don’t have reliable transportation. I can barely make it to Quitman and Greers Ferry, much less driving to New Orleans.

If I were a single man, I might throw caution to the wind and leave my job to go help, but I’m not. And I need this job.

I have given what money I could, and I will give more since today (Thursday) is payday. I’m also contributing in a small way by writing this column. Maybe someone out there will read this and be spurred to do something also.

I feel strongly that people with means should be more involved. Entertainers, entrepreneurs, CEO’s, politicians – these people have made fortunes standing on the backs of the less fortunate. Shouldn’t they give back?

Do you think if Bill Gates sent $50 million, he would even know it was gone? Or Tom Cruise, who makes too much money to go around stumping for Scientology, what’s $10 million to him? Couldn’t he purchase a construction company and send them to work in New Orleans?

And although I won’t get into a political discussion, shouldn’t Bush do more than just fly around in a helicopter and say “That’s terrible”? His family is rich (and getting richer by the day), couldn’t they donate some money or send their idiot daughters to do some work?

While these groups of people could help, it’s really the athletes that owe New Orleans. The Crescent City has been good to athletes. It has hosted Super Bowls, Final Fours, countless National Championship games in the Sugar Bowl; many an athlete has made their name (and therefore their millions) in New Orleans.

Unknown heroes will donate their time and manpower to help. Chances are we will never hear of these kind-hearted souls and some may even be in the position to leave their lives behind in order to help our brothers and sisters.

Someone needs to. The city of New Orleans is underwater and rife with floating disease. Just fewer than 500,000 people lived there, now what is going to happen? And how is this going to affect the rest of the southeast if not the entire country?

The hungry could be fed if the people with the means could really give. The sick and injured could be cared for if the elite in this country could dig a little deeper.

Since Captain America and Superman and the rest of the Avengers and Justice League won’t be coming to help, real heroes need to step up.

Athletes –  just or not – are the closest things we have to superheroes. They perform incredible physical and mental feats, and the public adores them like they just prevented Galactus or the Skrull army from destroying the Earth.

Charles Barkley once had an infamous commercial that closed with the lines “I’m not a role model”. At one time I believed that.

But now I’m changing my mind. They are all role models, whether they want to be or not. And I think it’s time that the athletes start giving back. Today.

The city of New Orleans should be the first to be reimbursed for all of that hero worship that has made millionaires of little boys and girls that play ball for a living.

If not now, when?

Categories: sports

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