Opinion: Goal should be to play for your country, not a paycheck

Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against the Utah Jazz during NBA action at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, on Tuesday, November 9, 2010. (Charles Mostoller/Miami Herald/MCT)

Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against the Utah Jazz during NBA action at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, on Tuesday, November 9, 2010. (Charles Mostoller/Miami Herald/MCT)

Nick Shook

Ask the common athlete if he or she would like to represent the United States in the Olympics.

I’m sure that 99.9 percent of athletes would respond with an emphatic answer of “yes!”

Which leads me to be puzzled about Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade’s recent comments about compensation for U.S. Olympic athletes.

“It’s a lot of things you do for the Olympics — a lot of jerseys you sell,” Wade said, according to ESPN’s Michael Wallace. “We play the whole summer. I do think guys should be compensated. Just like I think college players should be compensated as well. Unfortunately, it’s not there. But I think it should be something, you know, there for it.”

Dwyane Wade makes $15.5 million per year as park of his maximum contract with the Heat.

I have to ask Wade: Isn’t $15.5 million enough?

Wade attempted to back up his comments with examples of how much time players invest in the preparation for the Olympics, especially after the long NBA season that includes deep postseason play for many of the team’s best players. While I understand that the time commitments are extreme for these athletes, the claim is still outrageous.

Basketball is Wade’s profession. He is paid millions of dollars to perfect his game, and with the success he has experienced on the court comes the offer to represent his country in the Olympics.

Wade was a member of the 2008 team that took home the gold medal, and the 2004 team that won the bronze medal.

Representing your country in the Olympics is an honor and privilege. While I disagree with the notion, many view it as patriotic duty. There are plenty of players that likely would love nothing more than to suit up for Team USA in the Olympics.

Wade’s comments were very egotistical, in my opinion. He is blessed with the talent and ability to play professional basketball at its highest level, and earn a very nice living while doing so. Playing in the Olympics is an honor he has earned, but he is not entitled to represent Team USA. He needs to be reminded that it is a privilege to play for the United States.

While discussing this issue on my Thursday morning sports-talk radio show, “Sports With Shook,” on Black Squirrel Radio, one of our listeners (@JoJoLeen21) decided to voice his opinion via Twitter.

“Paid?? No way,” he said. “If you pay them you have to pay the whole team! The whole USA Olympic team. The swimmers, divers, track…”

The listener makes a valid point. Just a few decades ago, professionals were not allowed to participate in the Olympics. Amateurs played for absolutely nothing, and were more than excited to represent their nation.

Now we are at a point where a professional, who makes $15.5 million per year, is asking for compensation for playing for Team USA. Isn’t the honor worth more than a dollar sign?

After receiving backlash for his comments, Wade took to Twitter to attempt to clarify his comments.

“I’m reading a lot of reports coming out about my comments re: the Olympics and compensation. And I want to clear this up personally … I responded 2 a specific question asked by a reporter on my thoughts of Olympians being paid. I never asked to be paid to PLAY. What I was referencing is there is a lot of Olympic business that happens that athletes are not a part of – and it’s a complicated issue.

“BUT my love 4 the game & pride 4 USA motivates me more than any $$$ amount. I repped my country in 2004 when we won the bronze medal and stood proudly to receive our gold medal in 2008 in Beijing. It’s always been an honor for me to be a part of the USA Olympic family and I’m looking forward to doing it again in London this summer.”

Wade didn’t retract his comment about players receiving compensation for jersey sales. Instead, he tried to deflect attention away from his elitist views. Again, I ask: isn’t your NBA salary enough money?

This issue raises an alarming point in professional sports today. The major sports are dominated by egocentric athletes that are more focused on their paychecks and brand improvement, not their performance and dedication to the fans that spend their hard-earned money on memorabilia and tickets to watch them play.

My message to Wade, and any other athlete that thinks he should be compensated for playing in the Olympics, or deserves more than the millions of dollars he already receives, is this: Play for your country, not your paycheck.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected] and @NickShookDKS.