Imagine If…

Like many of my sport-minded comrades, I’m a sucker for a sport story that is, in so many ways, so much bigger than sport.  ESPN’s news reporting program E:60 has become one of my favorite television programs, primarily because of its focus on the stories in the world of sport that often never make the headlines.  In fact, as sports reporting networks such as ESPN and CBSSports pound the same “breaking news stories” about Tim Tebow’s throwing motion and conference realignment down our throats for days at a time, my affinity for these behind the scenes stories has grown even more.

The most recent “so much more than a sport story” that has resonated in my mind for the past few weeks is one about San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Braylon Edwards, and his commitment to helping young men and women get into college.

The details of the story can be heard in the Rick Reilly story above, but to summarize:

In his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns, Braylon Edwards promised 100 Cleveland public school 8th graders $10,000 for college if they did the following: graduate high school with a 2.5 GPA, complete 15 hours of community service, and become exemplary students in their school. Let it be noted that in Cleveland, less than half of public high school students graduate.

Five years later, 79 of the students met the requirements and graduated.  As promised, Edwards gave each of the students $10,000 for college.  Some simple math calculates that to a $790,000 gift to those students.  Considering that Edwards is no longer playing in Cleveland, and is also only making $1Million as a member of the 49ers, his philanthropic efforts seem even more remarkable.  Edwards is essentially playing for free this season, which led me to have one of my “Imagine If…” moments that often arise whenever I hear about such a remarkably generous deeds by an individual.

So, Imagine If…

Imagine if every professional athlete made a commitment to furthering the education of our country’s youth by providing scholarship.  Not every athlete would have to make the same promise that Edwards did.  Nor would they have to develop a program as detailed as Edwards’, with a select number of students from a specific school system, all meeting a certain set of guidelines set out by Edwards.  And it wouldn’t have to be a $1Million.

Here is my vision.  Each professional athlete in the big four sports, commit 1% of their annual salary to a scholarship fund.  The money accumulated would then be distributed in the form of college scholarship to high school students in each teams’ respective communities.  I will use the Los Angeles Lakers to provide a simple example of my vision.

Matt Barnes $1,906,200
Steve Blake $4,000,000
Kobe Bryant $25,244,493
Andrew Bynum $14,900,000
Derrick Caracter $762,195
Devin Ebanks $762,195
Derek Fisher $3,400,000
Pau Gasol $18,714,150
Andrew Goudelock $473,604
Jason Kapono $854,389
Josh McRoberts $3,000,000
Darius Morris $473,604
Troy Murphy $854,389
Luke Walton $5,680,000
Metta World Peace $6,790,640

As a team, the LA Lakers make over $87,500,000.  If each of the players committed just 1% of their salary, $875,000 could be put into the hypothetical scholarship fund.  Even for players like rookie guard Darius Morris, who makes $473,604, the 1% contribution would still leave him with $468,868 to put food on the table.

Now for the sake of mass calculation, lets assume that each NBA team would contribute the same $875K.  In just one year, in just one league, $26,250,000 would be raised.

Even before I did any calculations, the 1% “scholarship tax” didn’t seem very unreasonable.  Now after seeing just how much money it could generate, it seems like a NO-BRAINER.

I understand than a number of athletes already make significant philanthropic contributions, and I will never deny the fact that all of the charitable contributions that professional athletes make are, in some way or another, making the world a better place.  However I believe every American would agree that one of the very best ways to ensure the prosperity of our society for years to come is by furthering the education of our youth.


One response to “Imagine If…

  1. It’s pretty striking to see those numbers. Here’s a few more… the average household income in 2010 was $50,221. (Also in 2010 14.3% of the US population fell below the poverty level.) That means that even Braylon Edwards, making JUST 1million dollars a year, is still making more than 20x the average American. And even after an incredible philanthropic act, giving away >79% of his yearly income, he still makes $210,000 a year. That may not support buying a Bentley, but is not too shabby by most citizen’s standards.

    If Kobe Bryant gave away the same percentage as Braylon Edwards, he would still make over 5 million dollars a year. I wonder what Luke thinks of that.

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