Topic: Sports & Entertainment Society

Al Jefferson
(April 2005)

Suppose you are about to play Monopoly. If your friend had an emotional attachment to, say, the race car game piece, and you had picked it up first, what would you do when he asked you if he could use it? The kind, considerate and generous thing to do would be to give it to him…even if you rather liked the race car yourself (me, I’m a top hat fan). But the emerging attitude in America is never to give up anything for free when you can squeeze some money out of the transaction. It is a corrosive standard of conduct, and one that is epitomized by professional athletes charging each other outrageous fees to give up uniform numbers that a player regards as lucky.

Sports Illustrated traces the commerce in numbers to 1993, when baseball’s all-time base stealing champ, Rickey Henderson, was charged $25,000 by an obscure Blue Jays outfielder named Turner Ward for Ward’s assigned uniform number 24, which Henderson had worn throughout his career. Giants punter Jeff Feagles has sold his numbers twice, once to Eli Manning for a Florida vacation, and then to Plaxico Burress for a new kitchen. Currently on the docket is an actual lawsuit in which an NFL player, Ifeanyi Ohalete, is suing another, Clinton Portis, claiming that half the $40,000 he was promised for handing over number 26 hasn’t been paid.

And Al Jefferson? Last month, the Boston Celtics player was wearing number 8, and it was coveted by the Celtics’ newly acquired star, Antoine Walker. Jefferson handed it over for nothing!

"I just told him to teach me everything he knows about the game," Jefferson said. "Ain’t all about the money."

And for understanding that increasingly obscured fact in professional sports, Al Jefferson is a most deserving Ethics Hero for April, 2005.

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