On & Off the Field: Athletes Hard At Work
Athletes often face public scrutiny; consequently, their philanthropy can go unnoticed.
by Emily Provost
According to the Forbes article, “The NBA’s Highest-Paid Players 2019: LeBron James Leads With $89 Million,” written in 2019 by Kurt Badenhausen, LeBron James spent his fifth year in a row making approximately $88.7 million from the NBA plus an additional $53 million “off the court.”
With a salary like that, it is no wonder he works towards giving back. Right before he was drafted into the NBA, he founded his organization, The Lebron James Family Foundation (LJFF). Since then, it has grown and morphed to include the notorious I PROMISE program, which works to give Akron students a stronger shot at completing their primary education and moving on to college.
As incredible as his efforts are, it is even more incredible that he is far from being the only professional athlete to put in this much time, effort, and funds. From football to soccer, basketball to baseball, and even tennis – athletes of all backgrounds and professions do their part to give back to society and their communities.
Jeffrey Morosoff, an associate professor at Hofstra University and director of the Public Relations department, believes that there are both practical reasons and good-will reasons for an athletes efforts.
“Their celebrity can create awareness; it can help people and it provides a way to give back,” he explained.
At all levels of professional sports, athletes are constantly using their status to do good. Maxwell “Hops” Pearce, a guard for the Harlem Globetrotters, uses his status as a professional athlete to give back to his community.
“An athlete’s community is what molds and shapes them into the person that they become in the present day,” said Pearce. “Sports are so unique in the sense that they have the ability to bring communities together to watch a game. If a community can set aside its own problems to watch and support an athlete from their area, they deserve for their athletes to give right back to them.”
Like many other athletes before him, Pearce also has founded his own charity. He created his own non-profit, The Flynance Foundation.
“We are looking to prepare student athletes for the life after sports in ways that can put a stop to the epidemic in the sports culture,” explained Pearce. “ We will provide a program that gives these athletes professional development and financial literacy to equip them for alternative routes other than sports.”
With always being in the public eye, the public relations surrounding professional athletes can have a large impact on their public image, as well as any of their charities.
“You have to look at how much of their time – how much of their money, is put to a good cause,” said Morosoff. “You have celebrities, and equally, you have sports figures that are very involved.”
With their salaries, many professional athletes easily can fund or sponsor numerable charities. The payoff to doing so is also greatly beneficial. However, there are many other millionaires across the globe that do not try so hard.
According to Pearce, the Harlem Globetrotters are deeply involved with charity work. They typically contribute to more than 10 major charities by donating money, but they also frequently give out tickets to games or host various philanthropy events as a team.”
“Everybody who’s a public figure shares the same impedes because being in the public eye, you need to maintain your reputation,” said Morosoff. “By giving to charity or creating your own charity, you put yourself in the eye of the publicly giving to a good cause.”
Pearce emphasized that these charitable acts come from the athletes’ own personal desires to help their communities.
“People should know that professional athletes are more than just two-dimensional beings,” he explained.“They care for others and are more than happy to give back.”
“It creates goodwill towards their fans and their audiences,” Morosoff added when discussing motives behind good deeds for those in the limelight. As much as there is to gain, stardom greatly increases one’s risks while being in the public eye.
The support of their fans is a big driver in what professional athletes work towards.
“As athletes, we understand that without the people who watch and support, there would be no sports of athletic careers,” said Pearce. “Charitable efforts display character and multidimensional. That is one thing that athletes are stereotyped to lack.”
If he could offer advice, Morosoff would say, “Be careful that your other behavior: how you treat others, what you say, what you actually do. If an athlete says the wrong thing, they put their good work at stake. You want to be public about your good but you don’t want to appear that it’s just for the good PR.”