Giving back

$19 million total to-date for Derek Jeter's "Turn 2" foundation.
$19 million total to-date for Derek Jeter’s “Turn 2” foundation.

Now that major league baseball is moving into the playoffs I thought I would re-visit a subject I wrote about at the beginning of the season. Specifically, I posted a piece regarding the ginormous compensation deals that some professional baseball players are able to negotiate during their short careers (Alex Rodriguez in particular), and I questioned whether they deserved such huge salaries. The article, which wasn’t really so much about baseball as it was about the business of baseball, sprouted from a comment by a friend of mine (follow this link to read the article).

Yet another good friend of mine (yes, I have more than one), upon reading my piece on Rodriguez, made a simple and straightforward suggestion as to what might be done with all that excess cash in which major league baseball is seemingly awash, which I opined would go to the owners if not to the players. Her query: “Couldn’t it go to charity?” That struck me as an interesting question and piqued my curiosity sufficient to inspire me to do a little research (not too much, just a little). So this article takes yet a different tack: It addresses what people in the baseball business, as well as other professional sports, do with all that money.

 If you recall from my Rodriquez post, the window of opportunity for these players to earn these astronomical salaries is limited to about three to five years, on average, after which time they have the entire rest of their lives to live. So they need to make hay while the sun shines, so to speak.

But then we find, according to an article by Jason Cimpl, that, even though many of these athletes will earn more in one season than most of us will earn in an entire lifetime, many will file for bankruptcy within five years of retirement. Specifically, a whopping 78% of NFL players, 60% of NBA players and MLB players file at four times the rate of the average U.S. citizen.

Nevertheless, and in celebration of the human spirit, many of the young men and women in this category of extraordinarily-high compensation seem to make a reasonable effort to give back. In fact, here are just a handful of random examples of some professional athletes who have done so in the form of charitable donations of one form or another. (Remember: the average annual major league baseball salary noted in my earlier article was about $3.3 million):

1. David Robinson – NBA: $11 million to-date.

2. Eric Lindros – NHL: $5 million. (Hockey players don’t make anywhere near as much as basketball players, so I’m told.)

3. Warrick Dunn – NFL: made down payments on over 100 homes for single parents.

4. Andre Agassi – USTA tennis champion: Founded a tuition-free charter school for at-risk youth – $3 million since 2007 alone.

5. Tiger Woods – PGA golfer: $9.5 million in 2007; $1.3 million in 2008. (He probably had to cut back – child support and all.)

6. Lance Armstrong – UCI cyclist: Pledged $5 million over ten years.

7. Dikembe Mutombo – NBA: Built a hospital in the Congo/$15 million.

8. Andrea Jaeger – tennis pro: In 1990 donated the entirety of her career tennis earnings ($1.4M) to cancer-related patient support.

 Each of the leagues and each of the teams has its own charitable foundation as well. The PGA announced this summer that the organization has surpassed the $2 billion mark in all-time total donations to charity; the annual contributions have steadily increased over the years with 2013 donations alone exceeding $133 million. The Players Championship, based at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, a bedroom community of Jacksonville, Florida, donated $6.5 million to charity in 2012. Delores Weaver, wife of Wayne Weaver (former Jacksonville Jaguars owner), donated $50 million to the Jacksonville Community Foundation in 2012.

So, there you go. And we don’t even have to let the U.S. Congress decide who gets the charity.

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