Last week, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced he was stepping down next season. While not a beloved figure in Phoenix (many Phoenicians feel he robbed the Suns of a Championship by suspending Amare Stoudemire during the 2007 playoffs), Stern can be credited for making the NBA what it is today: the second most popular sport in the world. During his tenure, players salaries increased 1000%. The NBA has become one of the world’s biggest fantasy leagues, not just for adult gamers, but also for boys, especially underprivileged ones. Many see sports as the only way out of the ‘hood. Unfortunately, for 60% of the NBA players, who go broke within five years of retirement, it is a short-lived escape.
It is not just basketball. This month, ESPN premiered Broke, a documentary describing the woes of professional athletes in all sports. The NFL, where the starting salary that so excites Pop Warner kids is over $400,000, is also where 78% go bankrupt after the average four-year career.
Linking Sports & Communities, an Arizona non-profit, seeks to make this reality known to youth and their parents. LSC, which is nine years old, celebrates sports, but encourages student athletes, ages 12-18, to stay in school, lead healthy lifestyles and be financially responsible. Sports are great for economic, social and health reasons. But, just as liquor companies ask people to “drink responsibly,” LSC hopes youth and their parents will approach sports responsibly.
LSC has events and workshops throughout the year, aimed at community groups, military families, youth sports leagues and others, which focus on preparing youth for managing their money, preparing for college, learning about careers in sports that do not involve being an athlete, and the dangers of drugs, tobacco and poor nutrition. “Since less than 0.5% of student athletes become professionals, we encourage all students to develop a ‘Plan B’ for a healthy and financially-sound life,” says President Denise Meridith.
With the help of sponsors like Grand Canyon University, the Phoenix Mercury/Suns, Phoenix International Raceway, SW Gas, ASU and others, LSC is hosting its 2012 Community Leadership Awards at the new GCU Arena next Sunday, November 4. At the annual event, LSC rewards individuals and organizations–Fergie Jenkins, Buddy Schultz, First Tee of Phoenix, students Destiny Nasr and Dalvin Richardson–true role models, who deserve headlines for positive contributions to their communities. More information on the event is available at http://tinyurl.com/99wln34