Why? That’s a question sports fans often ask when they hear a professional athlete has done something selfless. They wonder what his motivation is. Is it contract time again?
Why … why else would a man do something he doesn’t have to do?
It’s not a question that’s easily answered. After all, who can look inside a man and see what lurks in his heart? Are his motivations pure? When you hang around athletes for years and years, you reach a conclusion: It doesn’t matter why a man takes on a cause he doesn’t have to, which is what I told Phil Taylor, the talented defensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns.
Taylor is carving out a reputation for himself as a man who is eager to chip in and help others. Last fall, he bought book bags for almost an entire middle school in Cleveland.
Taylor’s profile in Cleveland is big enough – I mean, at 300-plus pounds, Taylor is a big man. He made his way to the public school, stuck around and talked to the boys. He can’t know what that meant to these inner-city boys, boys who don’t see many famous athletes step foot in their world.
Now, Taylor has moved to help somewhere else. The Texas native decided he had to do something for families whose lives were thrown into chaos last month when the West Fertilizer Co. plant near Waco exploded into a fireball. The community was destroyed – and 14 lives were lost. What had been a normal life is no more. The new normal is uncertainty: how to remake a life from scratch?
Taylor understood how difficult their lives would now be. Those Texans were his people, though; they were his neighbors in so many ways, despite the fact he spends most of his time 1,300 miles away. But distance is no reason not to help, just as not knowing one boy in the Kenneth Clement Boys’ Leadership Academy was no reason not to chip in there either.
So he’s organized a fundraiser. For $25 apiece, Taylor is selling T-shirts, which read “We Are West, Tx.” He’s using social and mainstream media to focus attention back on the tragedy.
His Browns teammates have jumped aboard the effort. But they are there only because Phil Taylor jumpstarted the campaign. He did something he did not have to do. He didn’t, however, see it that way. Taylor said helping others is what a man has to do when he has the means to help. Taylor has the means.
“So it’s very important,” he said. “When people can give back, they should.”
That’s a telling statement coming from any person. In a country with plenty, people still live on the economic fringes – some by choice, some by happenstance. All of us can do more for our brethren, even if we aren’t selfless, rich athletes like Andre Agassi, Tiger Woods, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Michael Phelps, Roger Federer or Phil Taylor.
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(Photo: NFL via Getty Images)