Minnesota Twins infielder Orlando Hudson last week hosted a bowling fundraiser to raise funds for his foundation. Lynx forward Charde Houston regularly meets with at-risk young women at a local agency. The MSR this week features a front-page story on the Cleveland Browns’ Derreck Robinson, who last month held a youth football camp in Minneapolis.
Are these acts of charity by these pro athletes, or are they simply fulfilling their contractual obligations?
“A lot of guys do give from the heart. I can’t speak on all,” says Hudson.
“It is a personal project,” asserts Houston on her Project Y.O.U. (Youth. Opportunities. Unlimited.), a six-week leadership program she launched this summer.
Do Black athletes today give back to the community, especially here locally? In too many cases, it’s never-land (come to the North Side) as far as local teams’ Black players appearing in local neighborhoods of color – whether promotional, charitable or otherwise – is concerned.
“Derreck will talk to them and talk about life, and what’s it been like growing up, going to high school and to college, and to the pro level,” says Kedrick Williams, Sr. who works with Robinson’s annual camp at McRae Park. “A lot of professional athletes don’t do that anymore.”
When he played in Buffalo, “The [Bills] organization talked to guys about doing it for the suburban people,” recalls Pat Williams of the Minnesota Vikings.
“But I am a guy who always wants to go to the city. I love going to the inner city because that is where the basic needs [are] at. But most organizations like sending guys to suburban [locations].”
Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is raising $1.25 million to convert the fields at Washburn and Patrick Henry High Schools to state-of-the-art synthetic turf fields for football, soccer and lacrosse games. MPS hopes to raise enough additional funds by 2013 to cover the cost of at least one more synthetic turf project.
Wouldn’t be nice if a group of local athletes pass a hat around and collect the lion’s share of this needed amount for MPS? I once suggested that if every Black pro baseball player donated 1/10th of their paycheck to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, the NLBM’s capital campaign goals would be met for at least a couple of years.
Conversely, if every Black NBA and NFL player would “tithe” – give 10 percent of their earnings – annually to a fund to help set up more Black-owned businesses; to support after-school programs or more gym classes in schools; provide athletic equipment in underserved urban area – the possibilities as well as the needs are endless.
Their employers have no obligation to give back to the Black community despite the fact that their precious stadiums and arenas are often built with taxpayers’ money. The players’ agents, especially if they’re White, most likely won’t advise their Black clients to do so since they are more concerned about getting their 10-15 percent of the megabucks salaries they negotiate.
Giving back, therefore, must be – and should be – initiated by the Black players themselves.
“When we make that money, and God blesses us with it, to come back and [give] back to the neighborhood… I’m not saying to write checks to everybody, but come out and spend a little time with the kids. That’s means a lot,” believes Hudson.
“I am no spotlight person. Some guys do it because they love the spotlight.
But I do it because I want to do it. I want to give back because I…had nothing growing up, so I want to give back,” says Pat Williams, who adds that maybe 10 percent of his fellow pros only do what they do for the photo op.
Robinson says he refuses to charge the young attendees of his summer camp, although he knows that there are others who do. “I don’t think kids should be paying for something that’s fun. It should be free,” he notes.
There’s nothing wrong with raising funds for a specific health cause. But what about giving back – maybe to help create healthy neighborhoods for people who look like themselves, who more often than not faced the same circumstances, and reside in the same environment that these Black pros once did?
“I’ve been grateful to have two unbelievable parents, Grandma and Granddad, so I know my history,” surmises Hudson. “It’s not all about giving money, but it’s all about giving a bit of time. I’m a big believer on anybody giving back.
I’m not a perfect man, but I like to go out and spend a little time here and there.”
“I must say that I am very blessed to be in this situation that I am in,” concludes Houston.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.