The recent earthquake in Haiti was a disaster that directly impacted millions around the world. Many were moved to donate to the relief efforts. Most of those who haven’t given likely feel at least some kind of empathy or compassion for those affected.
Former NBA player Paul Shirley appears to be part of what he himself refers to as "a miniscule minority."
Shirley, who came to fame by blogging about his back-of-the-bench role on the 2004-05 Phoenix Suns, detailed his reasoning behind not donating to Haitian relief efforts in a blog at FlipCollective.com.
Had Shirley simply been content not to donate, nobody would have been the wiser. His celebrity is not such that he would come under serious scrutiny. Yet his outspoken comments were enough to draw the ire of many readers and led to his firing from a part-time blogging position at ESPN.com.
In his blog entry, Shirley essentially suggests that Haiti is to blame for its poor conditions and infrastructure, and thus, as he writes, "Shouldn’t much of the responsibility for the disaster lie with the victims of that disaster?" While Shirley makes it known he does not believe the residents of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation "deserved their collective fate," he does hold them responsible for the conditions in which they lived.
He compared giving money to the efforts in Haiti to giving money to a homeless man on the street with a sign saying, "Need You’re Help." His attempt at high-brow grammatical humor is one that even experts of the genre like Dennis Miller would probably not touch. He explains that much like giving money to that man on the street, you cannot be sure just where that donation is going, a valid concern given the issues with where money was being used following other disasters, including Hurricane Katrina.
While concerning oneself with allocation of funds is not beyond political punditry, his mock letter to the people of Haiti bemoaning the effects of their abject poverty crosses the line in the eyes of many.
Dear Haitians –
First of all, kudos on developing the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Your commitment to human rights, infrastructure, and birth control should be applauded.
As we prepare to assist you in this difficult time, a polite request: If it’s possible, could you not re-build your island home in the image of its predecessor? Could you not resort to the creation of flimsy shanty- and shack-towns? And could some of you maybe use a condom once in a while?
The Rest of the World
He writes how the people of Haiti, as in other situations of great despair, should be taught the needs to sustaining proper civilization. He reverts to the old maxim:
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
He also speaks out against the fact that he should feel like he is supposed to do something.
"I would like to help," Shirley writes, "but only if I feel that my assistance is deserved and justified. If I perceive that I am being told to feel a certain way, and if I can point to a pattern of mistakes made in similar situations, I lose interest."
His notion of it being his duty to help may be one people are not opposed to, but using humor at the expense of a nation suffering from a national tragedy is one people tend to frown upon.
Other athletes have taken a vastly different stance. Red Sox slugger David Ortiz and other baseball players have undertaken great efforts to send donations to the island. Philadelphia 76ers center Samuel Dalembert, the only Haitian-born player in the NBA, visited his home country and plans to do so again.
Colts wide receiver Pierre Garcon, himself of Haitian decent, had tried to raise funds and awareness for the crisis. When the Colts won the AFC championship on Jan. 24, Garcon waved a Haitian flag on the podium when the team accepted its trophy.
Shirley may have been good enough at basketball to occasionally draw the interest of some fans. He may even write a letter claiming to be from the world at large. But it is rather clear he does not speak for it.
To donate to Haitian relief efforts, click here for more information and to select your charity.
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