Dwayne Wade…What Were You Thinking?

Posted: April 17, 2012 in Olympics
Tags: , , , ,

Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat caught a lot of flak last week for saying he thought Olympic athletes should be paid. The outcry was so great Wade actually retracted his comments and apologized.

What were you thinking, Mr. Wade?  Why did you retract your statement?  Olympians should be paid.  Absolutely.

Why shouldn’t they be paid? I don’t want to hear about how it is unpatriotic to ask for money to compete in the Olympics. I’m as patriotic as the next guy. More, I think, than most. But what have the modern Olympic Games got to do with patriotism?

The Olympics have become a multi-billion-dollar sports entertainment enterprise. Billions are paid for the television rights. Ticket prices are outrageous. Some Olympic officials make millions of dollars. Cities have illegally paid millions of dollars under the table to Olympic officials to be awarded as host cities. It is long since past the time when the Olympics were held simply as a competition between the best athletes from the various nations.

It’s now big business. Some nations have been handsomely paying their athletes and coaches for decades. Why should so many people get rich while some athletes and coaches are not? The rich Olympians, by the way, include some Americans. Do you think multi-Gold Medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps has ever held a day job? What about gymnast Mary Lou Retton? Track and field star Carl Lewis? The list is a long one.

Patriotism comes in many forms, but playing in the Olympics isn’t necessarily one of them. Certainly some athletes have made great sacrifices to compete. Nearly all of them compete in the non-entertainment sports, such things as skeet shooting, archery and curling. You get the idea. Maybe they did it and still do it for the Red, White and Blue. Bravo for them.

Of course Wade was ripped in part because he already makes millions of dollars playing basketball in the NBA. So what? If Wade had asked me, by the way, I’d have advised him to quietly decline an invitation and stay out of the pay-to-play discussion. I’d have told him not to bother talking about the potential for injury or how he needed a break from the long NBA seasons or how so many people made lots of money because of the Olympics. I don’t expect millionaire athletes to get much sympathy. They don’t get any from me.

But asking for money doesn’t necessarily make Wade or anyone else a bad guy and unpatriotic.

Interestingly, I compare the Olympic Games of the 21st Century to what our big-time pro sports were like in the 1960s and before. A lot of people made a lot of money in, for example, Major League Baseball, but only a few of the players were among the lucky ones.

  1. Wyman says:

    Your points and Wade’s points are well and good, especially the idea of who covers the player, if a career-ending injury should happen. However, I wonder if anyone has calculated the dollar value of playing in the Olympics, both for the NBA and the player? Doesn’t Wade playing in the Olympics enhance the image of the NBA, along with its players, especially the participants, in a way that is financially postive? Doesn’t Wade’s potential for lucrative commercial deals, in the USA and abroad, increase by his participation in the Olympics? Might the recognition that he accrues from playing in the Olympics, extend his basketball career and earnings capability, in other countries, once he can no longer make an NBA roster? In other words, doesn’t it pay for Dwayne Wade to play in the Olympics? Isn’t this a form of compensation, which is limited to players making the Team USA roster? Meaning he is in a special class or group; a group that is voluntary, although one must make the team to play.

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