Almost a month ago, I begged athletes, coaches and sports media personnel to not stick to sports. Many of them had already utilized their platforms in the sports world to speak on societal issues, and many of them had seen hesitant or even counterproductive responses to their actions.
Since then, though, we’ve seen the importance of sports folks not sticking to sports.
JJ Watt has raised $20 million — and counting — for Hurricane Harvey relief. Please, read that again. Twenty. Million. Dollars.
It’s funny, when a reporter asked Watt about the situation, his response was an almost-shrug of the shoulders and, “I had a camera phone.” We often get caught in the storm of blaming technology for making generations softer than the “good ol’ days,” but we all have camera phones.
Only Watt didn’t use his to Instagram his breakfast.
“Houston, we’ve got your back,” Watt said into his phone before blasting it out to the masses. The goal was $200,000 (half of which Watt donated himself to kick things off). Now, here we are, applauding Watt for raising 20 times that.
Houston Rockets guard and MVP runner-up James Harden donated $1 million to Harvey relief. Rockets owner Leslie Alexander donated $10 million. Harden’s newly acquired teammate, Chris Paul, who has yet to play a single game in a Rockets jersey, donated $75,000.
Former NBA All-Stars Stephen Jackson and Tracy McGrady put their boots in the dirt and helped the people down in the Houston area — including letting strangers into their homes.
University of Houston men’s basketball coach Kelvin Sampson asked for help via his Twitter account. More than 1,000 schools responded, sending shirts and shoes and any old gear they could find down to Houston to help. Sheridan College was one of those schools.
What if these guys had just stuck to sports? What if JJ Watt just went to training camp like the good NFLer he is? “Did his job” as many grumpy fans often shout?
Houston would be much worse off than it already is. We, as people, would be much worse off.
There are plenty of selfish people in this country, folks who go about their days not really caring about anything outside their arms’ reach. Let’s not focus on those people; those people don’t help us get better.
For those of us that do care and want to help, let’s take a second to admire athletes like JJ Watt. He cares; he wants to help, just like us. But he stands high above us, with greater resources and a much larger platform.
Why should we try to tear that platform down?
ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols made a point Tuesday afternoon on her NBA show “The Vertical,” noting Watt’s extraordinary generosity and work ethic. But she also acknowledged that the rest of us, as fans of Watt or applauders of his actions, don’t get to pick and choose when athletes should or shouldn’t stick to sports.
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) September 5, 2017
Whether it be raising millions for disaster relief or speaking out on white supremacist murderers in Charlottesville, Virgina, athletes should be paid attention to and respected for trying to improve the society in which we live.
They’re not forcing you to donate money — although plenty of you did. They’re not asking you to take a knee during the national anthem or march with protesters of any kind.
They’re just asking you to listen, to care, to help.
Mr. Watt, I applaud you for being so gracious. I applaud you and your colleagues for not sticking to sports.
You all deserve a standing ovation.