Athletes' good deeds virtually ignored
By John Harris
Monday, March 3, 2008
Ten-year-old Mark Brown-Williams was buried in Detroit on Saturday. The fourth-grader fell through ice atop a tributary Feb. 21. His body was pulled from the water two days later. Steelers linebacker Larry Foote grew up in Detroit and played on the same frozen river as a youngster. Foote, who has a son not much older than Brown-Williams, was so touched by the tragedy that he paid for the funeral of a boy he didn't know personally.
Foote's generosity received brief play in Pittsburgh and Detroit. It didn't go over big nationally because Foote's benevolence ran counter to how athletes are generally portrayed in the media.
Foote wasn't stopped by police for driving under the influence. He wasn't suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs. He didn't "make it rain" at a gentleman's club.
He's a professional football player who used his financial wherewithal to help a grieving family in need.
What Foote did wasn't deemed to be "SportsCenter" worthy.
Being a good samaritan doesn't sell in the media.
Better to perpetuate a stereotype than to seek out and report the truth.
Truth be told, the Larry Footes of the NFL far outweigh the Pacman Joneses.
Not every pro athlete abuses his celebrity, despite what you read, hear and see on a regular basis.
There are Larry Footes in every sport -- good people doing good things. The media has a professional obligation to tell the public the whole truth, not just the juiciest stories.
Unfortunately, some of the best stories featuring some of the biggest names in sports go virtually ignored.
During last month's NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, more than 2,500 people led the single largest volunteer effort since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.
The NBA isn't just offering free basketballs and sneakers. The league has contributed more than $15 million to the rebuilding efforts.
Superstars such as Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Paul Pierce helped build houses in the eastern part of the city two days before the All-Star Game.
To the skeptical, prying eyes of the mass media, the actions of a few elite players in a league starved for positive attention might be viewed as a publicity stunt.
Be that as it may, Hurricane Katrina is a life-and-death situation.
It's bigger than the NBA, bigger than sports.
New Orleans is inhabited by real people who need help. The NBA, to its credit, is offering just that.
And kudos to Foote, who gave to a family in need while giving the NFL's image a much-needed shot in the arm.