Athletes are privileged individuals who can play their respective sports at the highest level in the world. These players love what they do and are generously compensated for their talents both on and off the court. The minimum salaries in the four major professional leagues are:
Most of society can only dream of making this kind of money over a lifetime let alone make it in one year of a contract. As a result, we hold players to a higher standard because they have the power, access, and money to better our communities both for the teams and the fans. It is common to ask players what they are doing to give back to those less fortunate or how they are helping out in their local community. This begs the question of, “Is it better to create a personal foundation or to partner with an existing one?”
For example, how many foundations in the NBA focus on raising money to find a cure for cancer? Clearly there is a need for cancer research and the dollars associated with it; however, who runs these foundations? It’s possible that a player’s agent, friend, or family member is in charge of a personal foundation rather than an expert in the field. As a result, it is possible that there is a clutter of personal foundations that are created to help improve the community, yet it may not be as successful as originally intended.
On the other hand, there are organizations that currently exist that have the same goals as these personal foundations: to find a cure for cancer, to improve a city’s educational system, to help find a cure for AIDS. These charitable organizations hire experts in the non-profit field and have the resources available for a player to step in and be a spokesperson or a national figurehead. This will allow a player to be as involved on a personal level as he or she wishes, yet it lets the experts run the fundraising efforts. A player can use his likeness, access, and brand to improve a fundraising event or an organization, which is critical for many charities. One example is the MACC Fund, which has relationships with professional players to help with its events and fundraising. It brings exposure to the organization as a whole and is a true partnership with the player so he is fully rewarded with the interactions and experiences with the children. I will touch on it more at a later date, but these players allow the MACC Fund to use its so that both sides are successful in achieving their goals.
I pose this more as a question and ongoing conversation because there are examples of both types of models working. A future post will take a deeper dive into the Justin J. Watt Foundation and how it transformed an organization out of his kitchen into one raising hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to improve after school programming in Houston and Pewaukee. Having seen firsthand how knowledgeable and passionate this foundation is, there was never a doubt that they wouldn’t be successful. Thus, does it mean that the critical factor in a successful foundation or organization is having a knowledgeable and dedicated full-time staff to run it? I’ll leave this open to debate and would welcome any conversation or thoughts on this topic.
As always, feel free to comment, leave an idea or thought, either here or on Twitter: @ericshainock.