Time is money, and charity begins at home. But those truths can be taken too far if there's never time for serving and giving, free of charge. Participating on the U.S. Olympic basketball team is just one example.
All-Stars Ray Allen of the Boston Celtics and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat caused a brouhaha this week when they said that NBA players should be paid for competing in the Olympics. "You talk about the patriotism that guys should want to play for, but you [need to] find a way to entice the guys," Allen told Fox Sports South on Tuesday.
Wade co-signed after Miami's practice the next day. "I do think guys should be compensated," he told reporters.
Wade quickly backed off on Thursday, perhaps in response to the rapid-fire backlash from across the country. He issued a statement — "I do not want to be paid to go to the Olympics" — and he went into further detail on his Twitter account.
If playing for your country isn't enough, then you should stay home. I have no problem with an NBA star choosing to rest and protect his main asset (his body) instead of putting it at risk by training and competing for two months. And I understand where Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is coming from when he says that the NBA shouldn't allow its stars to play in international competition.
From ESPNDallas.com in January: "It's just the epitome of stupidity that we would allow ourselves to be used so other corporations" — as Cuban calls the Olympics — "can make tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars," Cuban said. "There's some guys sitting at the Olympic headquarters going, 'Those dumb asses; we're taking all their best guys for nothing.' "
USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo told USA Today that there's no extra money to pay NBA players. "All of the money that is generated from our participation, and the competitions the senior teams participate in, in effect subsidizes and pays for the entire U.S. Olympic [basketball] programs, and that includes all of the junior programs where most of these players came from," he said. "Most of them all started there, men and women."
Colangelo also pointed out the Olympics' value in creating endorsement opportunities. Players use the international stage to expand their global brand, and the advertisers love it, particularly the shoe companies. According to Forbes, "Eight of the 10 NBA players who have signature shoe deals with Nike, Adidas and Reebok are on the preliminary USA Basketball roster. These deals typically start at $5 million and can climb as high as $15 million with royalty payments in a good year for elite guys like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant."
I'm not suggesting that players shouldn't perhaps get a cut of their Olympic-jersey sales and related merchandise. I'm fine with perhaps increasing the bonus money that the U.S. Olympic Committee awards every participant, regardless of the sport (currently $25,000 for a gold medal, $15,000 for a silver and $10,000 for a bronze). And I wouldn't mind more involvement from corporate sponsors, who already compensate Olympians, as a way to up the ante, especially since other countries pay their athletes.
But when it comes to the USOC cutting checks in order for athletes to participate, count me out. If they do it for the country and do it well enough, extra income will follow. If that's not good enough, then there are other players who will say it's a great deal.