Commentary

Athletes don't deserve blame for making money

More money brings more problems. For athletes, that shouldn't be their fault, writes J.A. Adande.

Originally Published: December 11, 2007
By J.A. Adande | ESPN.com

We've come to the stage where we point the finger of blame at the victims, when even the target of a shooting says, essentially, "My bad." All of this after we learned that sometimes the safe decision can get you killed just as easily.

The Indiana Pacers questioned guard Jamaal Tinsley's judgment following a nightclub argument that led to his cars getting shot up early Sunday morning. Tinsley himself said he made a "stupid mistake."

Being out at 3 a.m. in an area that is not among Indianapolis' top neighborhoods might not be the best move. But in a year that saw Eddy Curry and Antoine Walker tied up and robbed in their own homes, and Sean Taylor shot and killed by burglars who broke in while he was tucked under the covers with his girlfriend and daughter, can we really say there are crime-free zones? Haven't we learned to step back and take a breath after initial speculation implied that Taylor had it coming to him?

Sure, Tinsley took a calculated risk. But I don't think anyone could have envisioned his actions culminating with shots fired from an assault rifle.

[+] EnlargeJamaal Tinsley
Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty ImagesIs it really Tinsley's fault he worked hard for his money?

One simple line from the Indianapolis Star's account of the Tinsley incident stood out: "Tinsley's attackers took issue with his luxury cars -- a Rolls-Royce, Mercedes CL6 and Dodge Charger -- and his wealth, police said."

If that's true, someone needs to explain what Tinsley did wrong. I don't believe an athlete's driving a nice car is an invitation to get shot any more than I believe a woman's wearing skimpy clothing is an invitation to get raped.

It's understandable that someone making more than $6 million would buy expensive cars. And he should be able to drive them out of the garage. Money should be liberating, not restricting. There's no need for Tinsley to barricade himself in a room like Howard Hughes.

Tinsley might have been a victim of location. Smaller towns don't always provide the option of going to a good place or a bad place. Sometimes your only choice is the place. When there's only one spot, you'll find every element there.

When I was in Indianapolis for the 2000 NBA Finals between the Lakers and Pacers, I went to a club recommended by a Pacers player. By the time I got there the party was already over. There had been a fight, the police shut things down and everyone was just milling around the parking lot. You're not as likely to get those results at the places players hang in New York or L.A.

But crime can happen anywhere. I'm reminded of something former Temple coach John Chaney said: "You can never end stupidity. Never." It knows no boundaries, can't be contained. Over the past couple of years there have been a series of robberies in some of the best, ritziest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. The solution isn't always simple. Hire security? Well, this report noted that an investigation into robberies in Orange County led to the arrests of two armed guards.

What's sad is when the behavior of the law-abiders mirrors the behavior of the lawbreakers.

When I saw Floyd Mayweather clowning around and waving stacks of cash on HBO's "Mayweather-Hatton 24/7" show, it took me right back to the pictures I'd seen only a few days before: those shots of Sean Taylor's alleged killers flashing wads of money on their MySpace pages.

Any time I see someone holding a large wad of cash, I don't think that person is rich. I think he's stupid. If that money is in his hand, it means it's not in an account somewhere, earning even more money. I heard Mayweather say that he flashes his cash for the camera to show kids they can get rich a legitimate way, through sports, instead of through crime. There's a little something to that, but if he really wanted to set a good example, he'd have the cameras follow him to a meeting with his accountant. They could go over his investment portfolio, look at a few pie charts and bar graphs, and track his assets. Maybe that isn't compelling television, but at least it shows the way it should be done. Not only is that smarter, it's safer. People don't get jacked for their monthly statements.

The problem is that far more people share Mayweather's love of material things than they do his talent and work ethic. When he mocked Ricky Hatton's fans by changing the lyrics to their incessant song, he wasn't kidding. There's only one Mayweather. He's the best in his sport, one of the most phenomenal athletes of our time.

So the lazy ones don't even bother to try. They don't want to put in the effort it takes to become a Floyd Mayweather, Sean Taylor or Jamaal Tinsley. They want the shortcut. They grab a gun instead of a gym bag. They're the ones who deserve our contempt.

J.A. Adande joined ESPN.com as an NBA columnist in August 2007 after 10 years with the Los Angeles Times. Click here to e-mail J.A.