It’s sort of refreshing to see an athlete who cares about something other than endorsements and strippers – no matter who it is.
So I’m okay with Carmelo Anthony trying to score 44 points to honor Barack Obama even though he once warned the people of Baltimore to stop snitching to the police. And I’m fine with Brandon Marshall wanting to wear a black and white glove as a symbol of unity, even though he has allegedly used those same hands to assault women on numerous occasions. And if Gilbert Arenas wants to have the President-elect’s slogan tattooed to his hand despite voicing his concern that he would have to pay more in taxes, then so be it.
But instead of just making superficial statements, it’s time Anthony, Marshall and Arenas use their platform to offer a little substance. It takes time and a lot of people to put a President’s words into action, but change doesn’t need to start at the top.
Maybe Anthony can go back to being as generous as he was in 2006, when The Giving Back Fund ranked him the eighth most charitable celebrity in the world. Among sports figures, only Tiger Woods gave more money to philanthropic initiatives that year. But he didn’t appear on the list in 2007 and won’t this year either. And make no mistake about it, while Anthony’s donations have slowed down, crime committed by African-American youth in Baltimore is as high as ever. At this point, his home city needs him to send the right message to young people just as much as it needs Obama.
Considering lawyer fees, Marshall isn’t nearly as wealthy as Anthony or Arenas, so we can’t expect the Denver wideout to give away millions. But if he wants to create change and give himself an image makeover, why not forget his unity glove and pony up the money for each of the 5,000 homeless children in the Mile High City to receive a pair of gloves and a hat this winter? What would it cost, maybe $25,000? Now that’s making a difference.
Arenas is lucky enough to be one of the most popular athletes in the world and he happens to be playing in the nation’s capitol. Want Obama to notice you? Washington DC happens to be at the center of our country’s dropout crisis and has an HIV rate 12 times the national average. Arenas should gather his teammates and make a significant donation to an organization like City Year, a National Service program that tutors and mentors students and also offers an eight-week CDC-approved HIV/AIDS Awareness curriculum to 7th - 12th grade students at middle schools and high schools throughout DC. It wouldn’t take all that much to double City Year’s impact in DC, Gilbert. And don’t worry, you can always write it off in April.
Like it or not, athletes have far more pull with America’s youth than any politician. They know Anthony wears number 15 and went to Syracuse, but couldn’t name the 15th President (Buchanan) for a full scholarship to Syracuse. A school visit from the mayor feels like detention, but get an athlete to deliver the same message and you’ve got a pep rally.
The pros often warn that they aren’t role models, but they’ve got just as many young eyes on them as Obama does. And when they start with public displays of support for the new face of our country, they need to back it up by being the heroes we can believe in.
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