Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade briefly found himself in some hot water on Thursday evening when, after a three-hour bus trip from Newark, N.J., into New York, where his Heat were staying ahead of their scheduled game against the New York Knicks on Friday night, he tweeted, "3 hour traffic just to get into the NY city.. C'monMan..." Some, extremely sensitive and working on their last raw nerves given all the hardship and suffering that area residents have dealt with since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Eastern seaboard, interpreted Wade's post-travel tweet as a short-sighted, tone-deaf complaint about how much it stinks to sit on a bus for a long time.
Wade attempted to clarify his remarks in a pair of subsequent tweets, saying he can't help thinking about families that are still without food, water and power days after Sandy hit and that the "C'monMan" was directed at the decision to press on with a basketball game when so many residents are still recovering from the storm (and many others, as we've seen in recent days, have yet to even begin that process). Some fans and readers, though, viewed those comments — which came after Wade deleted his initial tweet — as mere damage control, an attempt to soften any public relations hit that might come from a social media misstep.
Whichever side you tend to believe, Wade has doubled down on his comments, reaffirming to Jeff Zilgitt at USA Today that he does not believe the Heat and Knicks should play at Madison Square Garden Friday night. And in terms of support for Sandy's victims, the eight-time NBA All-Star is putting his money where his mouth is:
Wade plans to donate his pay from Friday's game — approximately $210,000 before taxes — to charity, and said he and his teammates are looking for the right charitable organization.
"The money I make tonight can be left for a good cause," he said. "I know a lot of people here. Knowing the things they have been through, it's just mind-boggling. Miami is a place that is affected by hurricanes all the time so I know how the community can be impacted by it. It's tough."
Sandy has come and gone, but New York is certainly still feeling the effects. While utility companies have steadily worked to restore service to as many customers as possible, hundreds of thousands of New York residents remain without power in the aftermath of the storm; the entirety of lower and midtown Manhattan has been dark all week. While the MTA has worked around the clock to aid city-dwellers who need to commute, transit options and service remain limited. Outside Manhattan, in some parts of Brooklyn and especially in areas like Staten Island and Queens, dwindling supplies of gasoline, water and food, combined with dropping temperatures and a paucity of answers as to when more aid might be coming, have many residents feeling abandoned by their city and state leadership.
As Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press notes, this isn't the first time Wade's done something like this; after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, he and then-teammate Alonzo Mourning teamed up to raise $1 million to support the recovery effort.
Wade's decision to donate his game check comes after Thursday's announcement that the NBA and National Basketball Players' Association will donate $1 million to aid post-Sandy support and recovery. In relative terms, the single game check is a drop in the bucket for a player slated to earn nearly $17.2 million this season. But it's also both a significant contribution — larger than those offered by the Los Angeles Lakers, who announced Friday that they would donate $50,000 to the American Red Cross' relief efforts and match up to $50,000 in fan donations, and the Orlando Magic, who committed $25,000 — and a significant symbolic gesture from a player who, while often jeered by Knicks fans, calls the Garden his "favorite place to play" away from home.
"But just knowing a lot of people here and knowing what they've been going through with no power, no water, no food … to me, it just seems like there's bigger things to be concerned about than a basketball game.
"Even though I know life goes on and you still have to do certain things, I just felt that they canceled the game in Brooklyn, then this one would be canceled as well. … The game tonight shouldn't be played."
But it is being played, and, as a result, personal feelings aside, the Knicks and Heat will jump tip Friday night; as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, "We were ready to go either way ... If they were to postpone it, we were fine with it." Reigning league MVP LeBron James called himself "kind of 50-50 with" the decision to push ahead with the Friday night game, but said that ultimately, "I go where the schedule tells me to go."
At the urging of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the NBA canceled the Knicks' planned season opener, which had been scheduled for Thursday evening at the brand new Barclays Center against the Brooklyn Nets. With subway stations flooded, mass transit choked off, bridges and tunnels closed or opened only in limited capacity and traffic snarled as a result, it was deemed logistically infeasible to host the kickoff game in Brooklyn's Prospect Heights neighborhood. The Nets will now open their building on Saturday night, welcoming the visiting Toronto Raptors.
With recovery efforts continuing apace and car travel to (and parking near) Manhattan and MSG considered easier to manage, the decision was made to play Friday's Heat/Knicks game as scheduled. Wade, however, remains unconvinced that was the best decision. From Mahoney at the AP:
''I didn't think that the game of basketball was of importance today, but the show must go on I guess and we will try to come out here and represent both cities, Miami and New York,'' Wade added. "[...] I just felt there was bigger things to be concerned about."
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