Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wade Poor for Asking for Olympic Pay

Some things don't have a price tag.  Pride and honor are two of them.  Dwyane Wade lacks both.

The Miami Heat All-Star and Olympic Gold Medalist is a great basketball player.  He will probably find his name in the National Basketball Association Hall-of-Fame one day.  But, Dwyane Wade is not a good American.  Maybe that is too harsh.  Dwyane Wade is an uninformed, arrogant, thoughtless American.

Wade recently stated that he thinks NBA players who compete in the Olympic games should be compensated for doing so.  He argues that after a long season, it's taxing for these world-class athletes to have to be back on the court, competing hard with very little rest for free.  Wade says playing in the Olympics is "not about the dollar, but it would be nice if you would get compensated."

Since when is having the privilege of being one of a select few people in the world, picked to represent the country with the greatest advantages in the world, not compensation enough? 

Wade will compete on a team this summer made up a players from all different backgrounds, whose combination of God-given talent and hard work have resulted in them earning a living that is dreamlike.  I don't blame them for that.  They have put themselves in a position to make that kind of money for their on-court play in the NBA and marketed themselves in a way to make even more in endorsements.  That is the American dream.

But, part of being a great American and living the American dream is understanding privilege and opportunity.  Dwyane Wade didn't grow up with a platinum spoon in his mouth.  He came from a humble background in Chicago and worked his way into worldwide icon status. Somewhere along that journey he lost perspective.

The Olympics represent one of the oldest, greatest, yet dying, aspects of our world, the opportunity to compete for the sake of competing.  The event was built on the concept of personal and national pride.  Have athletes cashed in on their Olympic performances after the games? Absolutely.  But, wanting money TO compete is a perversion.  It lessens the intent of what the Olympics are all about.

Not only are the five-multi colored rings about competing, they represent a chance for countries to highlight their successes and work together to try to improve the failures.

Dwyane Wade's comments point to the worldwide perception that Americans are greedy.

The world is consumed with financial problems.  European nations such as Greece and Portugal are swimming in a sea of debt.  Most of Africa defines wealth as the ability to get a healthy and full meal everyday.  Even thousands of Americans are still taking low paying jobs simply to keep food on the table. 

Yet, here is Wade, a multi-millionaire asking for more.  He made more than $25-million last year.  How much does he need?

Wade, along with his other superstar teammates in Miami, has a history of entitlement.  He is one of the biggest whiners in the league, held a preseason title celebration, only to lose in the Finals months later, and never shys away from moments to let the spotlight shine on his individual success.

There is no place for any of that in the Olympics.  That is a platform for selflessness and national pride.

Ask Tommie Smith and John Carlos. 

In the 1968 Olympics, the two men finished first (Smith, who also set a world record at the time) and third (Smith) in the 200 meter dash.  Both Smith and Carlos are African American and rose to Olympic prominence during the height of the civil rights movement. 

After accepting their medals on the podium in Mexico City, they each raised one clenched fist in the air.  At the time, many people thought it was to symbolize black power and defiance.  In fact, the U.S turned its back on them and both were kicked off the team because of the outrage. 

But, Smith and Carlos didn't apologize for their fists.  They displayed the gesture not for self promotion, but for national and international unity.   It was their way of denouncing racism and a symbol asking for all people coming together as one.  They used the Olympic stage to send this powerful message.

The image of Smith and Carlos with their fists raised high is iconic.  Their actions were selfless and helped push the nation's conversation of  racial equality forward.

Those men represent what the Olympics are all about.

Dwyane Wade needs to learn from their example.  The Olympics aren't about a petty paycheck.  They are about encouraging others to rise to the best in their profession.  They are about representing what is great about competition.  For American athletes, they are about being proud and honored to be a citizen of the most affluent and privileged nation in the world and representing it on the world's greatest stage.

Money is replaceable.  It can buy a lot, but it can't buy pride and respect, which are the foundations of the Olympic games.  Wade asking for more shows how poor he really is.

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