On Wednesday, we brought you the news that Dwyane Wade, a certain member of the 2012 USA Olympic team, thinks that he and other NBA stars deserve pay for the Olympics. His statements became a mild controversy, primarily because most Americans think players should want to represent their country just because it's the patriotic thing to do. While Wade's comments didn't preclude that desire, he also seemed to think his time is worth compensation.
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.
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 also told reporters "I do not want to be paid to go to the Olympics," but his Twitter clarification tells a different story. Wade is fine playing for no money, but he also thinks he's worth it. His comment wasn't intended to affect Team USA policy — it was just an opinion put bluntly.
Yet, while Wade got negative attention for not being content with the pride of playing for America, it's telling that USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo explained the reasons for not paying players in much different terms. From Jeff Zillgitt for USA Today (via SLAM):
"All of the money that is generated from our participation and the competitions the senior teams participate in in effect subsidizes and pays for the entire U.S. Olympic (basketball) programs and that includes all of the junior programs where most of these players came from," Colangelo said. "Most of them all started there, men and women."
Colangelo took over as chairman of USA Basketball in 2005 following a substandard bronze-medal performance by the men's team at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Not only did the team need direction with management, coaching and player selection, it needed financial help.
"When I took over the program in 2005, they were in a terrible losing situation financially," Colangelo said. "During the next four years, I quadrupled the revenue, but that only brought us to break even. That covers all of the expenses for the men, women, boys and girls, all the way down. We sell sponsorship, sell tickets to exhibition games." [...]
"The opportunity to represent your country is a privilege without anything further said, that's No. 1," Colangelo said. "No. 2, the experience broadens individuals in every regard and every respect because you experience things you would not have under any other circumstance — the travel, the people you meet.
"Thirdly, the brand. We will live in a global economy. All of our players have shoe contracts and apparel contracts and they're little mini-business onto themselves and in some cases, they're not mini-businesses, they're quite substantial.
"Participation is a privilege that gives their brands a great impetus and most of them really, truly understand that."
Colangelo mentions the joy of patriotism in his response, but the crux of his argument is that payment is a financial issue. USA Basketball wouldn't be able to afford it, and players already see indirect benefits from their participation. They're already being compensated, even if not with payment.
For Colangelo, and presumably the players, the Olympics are already a business. Introducing salaries would change the relationship between Team USA and its athletes, but it wouldn't necessarily change the ethos of the Olympics as they are actually experienced. For all the talk of Olympic ideals, in its contemporary form it's a multibillion-dollar corporation. Pretending that it's all about honor and integrity is naive.