Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett made some interesting points last week, taking a couple jabs at his fellow pro athletes in the process.
As a Pro Bowl caliber player, Bennett’s voice carries some weight to it. He’s never been afraid to let his opinions be heard and he and brother, Martellus, have become two of the more cerebral and outspoken players in the typically buttoned-up NFL.
But Bennett voiced his disappointment in other athletes charging exorbitant fees for kids to attend their camps in the offseason. He specifically named Steph Curry, who had a four-day camp on Oahu over the July 4 holiday weekend. The reigning two-time MVP’s camp cost in excess of $2,000 per child.
Bennett’s qualms with Curry come primarily from the fact that Bennett has spread his roots in Hawaii, living here the past four years. He married a woman from Oahu and has become a part of the community by his own doing. His own football camp on Oahu was free for attendees. So his perspective has been shaped to prompt him to feel an obligation to not only give back, but to strengthen a community he now calls home.
Now, for a camp like Curry’s, it’s not as if the $2,000 per player is going into his own pocket. He’s not the one instructing every drill, printing up T-shirts, providing food and drinks. The people who do all those things need to be compensated for their work. But Curry — though wildly underpaid by the newest NBA standards — is certainly in a position to cover all of those expenses if he wanted to make the camp more of a charitable endeavor than an opportunity.
I applaud Bennett for not only having his camp run for free, but for shining a light on this particular part of the industry and perhaps putting other players on notice. If his comments prompt a few more to slash or eliminate their participation fees, it would be worth while.
A lot of these camps are only as good as the coaches and instructors, not the name on the pamphlet. When Kevin Bannon was the head basketball coach at Rutgers, I went to his camp for a week one summer. Coach Bannon would show up for a little while in the evening and point out a few things, but all the work was really done by the instructors, which included members of the college team.
Bannon was later fired from Rutgers for having players remove clothing for missing free throws and run naked wind sprints. So maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing he didn’t get too involved.
Camps with high-profile players are common these days. Just recently, highlights of James Harden and Russell Westbrook each playing one-on-one with campers have gone viral. They provide a great opportunity for kids to interact with superstars and experience that dream scenario in a real life setting.
But to Bennett’s point, a lot of players often talk about giving back and seem genuine in their desires, though sometimes that desire can get lost in the process. Examining what the community can really afford would be a great way to keep these experiences possible for all the kids whose parents may not have the disposable income they currently require.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.