It sounded like a good idea at the time. Now it sounds like a miracle.
Last Friday, Jimmie Johnson, the 2006 Nextel Cup NASCAR champion, said he’d donate his winnings at the week’s Pep Boys 500 to the American Red Cross and the organization’s relief efforts in the wake of the devastating California fires. A Southern California native, Johnson said the tragedy hit “pretty close to home.” He recalled even being evacuated on occasion due to fires in the area.
Not long after Johnson’s announcement, several other NASCAR affiliates and officials pitched in, including Lowe’s, Speedway Motorsports chairman Bruton Smith, Sonic Automotive Inc., and NASCAR executive Jim France. All said they’d match Johnson’s winnings-turned-donation.
Then the miracle happened. Johnson, locked in a battle with Jeff Gordon for the 2007 Nextel Cup, won the darn thing. Thanks to a two-tire change strategy that will mean something only to die-hard gear heads (is that redundant?), he won the 500.
His winnings? $349.561 Combined with the other commitments, nearly $1.5 million was raised to support firefighters and citizens burned from their homes – in one day!
It prompted me to think: What if every athlete and league and sponsor donated a day’s earnings to a deserving charity? What if the NBA – which wrestles daily with its image – announced tonight, opening night, that every player and coach was donating that night’s salary to the relief effort – and that those funds would be matched by the teams and the league’s major sponsors and television networks?
How much would that be?
What if every NFL player, coach and team donated one Sunday’s earnings? Count the millions.
What if the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies donated their World Series checks – and other players matched? Are we talking a billion yet?
What if the NHL, UFC, other NASCAR drivers and other sports organizations did the same – to combat illiteracy, poverty, homelessness, breast cancer, AIDS or simply put it all in a major disaster relief fun to be overseen by a major board and at the ready when disasters such as Katrina and he raging fires hit?
Just one day’s earnings?
Throw in Nike, Gatorade, adidas, Starter and other major sports manufacturers.
Just one day’s profits?
Imagine…how much our communities, our children and our less fortunate would rise.
This is not to say that many. many athletes hav e not been as giving and gracious with their dollars and time as Jimmie Johnson. Many have, in every league.
But just imagine how such an historic, one-day show of universal support for others just might change what many of us think about sports – and particularly today’s athletes.
Imagine if Kobe and his peers reached for their wallets as proudly.