Just give us the game back (38253)

Aside from the severe changes in climate, there were two major reasons why the transition from summer to the 2011 fall/winter season was worrisome: the very real specter of having no professional football or basketball. Both sports expressed labor issues in which players were locked out of their facilities by franchise owners, putting the playing seasons of both the NFL and NBA in jeopardy. Cooler heads prevailed in football to avert a work stoppage, but the same optimism can’t be seen in basketball as of yet. As the casual fan, we see it as a case of millionaire divas vs. billionaire divas. Just give us the game back.

At one time, the support went out to labor-in this case, the athlete. Now, our athletes are looking more and more like selfish, egomaniacal, pampered individuals that are out of touch with reality outside of their bubble.

Looking to dispel the perceived public opinion is an organization called the United Athletes Foundation (UAF). Since its inception in 2008, the group has grown to 90 members, athletes across the board (boxing, WNBA, NBA, MLB and NFL) that include such luminaries as Andrew Young, Julius Erving, Hank Aaron, Ray Lewis and Russell Simmons as board members or advisors. The overall objective of the organization is to empower athletes in their community efforts.

Reggie Howard, president and executive director of the UAF, says, “When I heardpeople saying athletes don’t care or give back, I took offense because I knew guys that were but didn’t care about any spotlight. We wish to provide the infrastructure, knowledge and tools to help facilitate the goals that our members are passionate about.”

He continues, “We look to impact as many lives as possible, so we have various causes under our roof, believing that if we combine our talents we can use our collective leverage. Too many of us self-fund our organizations-if we aren’t in a financial position to continue funding, the program is diluted or eventually collapsed. But if you’re in a position to have access to multiple resources and fundraising opportunities, programs can be established that are self-sufficient and have long-term goals.”

One such program that has emerged has garnered national exposure recently, the UAF Children’s Relief Endowment Fund, which provides mentoring, tutoring and counseling. The program was spawned in response to the tragic story of LaShaun Armstrong and the thousands of other children like him who get little to no attention.

Shares Howard, “The things we’re doing are coming from the heart, so if something touches us, we’re going to help whether we get the spotlight or not. We drove up to see him and his family. Those hugs were real and no cameras were around. His grandmother thanked us. I told her, ‘Get used to us-we’re not here for a time and then to fade out. You’re part of our family.’ So now we aim to raise $5 million in the next 24 months to endow an ongoing fund that would support children in disastrous situations such as traumatic family loss.”

Working in tandem with the charitable component is the educational aspect of the program. As veteran sports figures, the organization’s members are well versed in the trappings that go along with the riches younger athletes are blessed with.

“A lot of people are not going to like us, but so what. A lot of people are getting paid that shouldn’t be getting paid, and we’re going to expose them. We plan to educate young athletes as well as their parents about what questions they should ask, how to run background checks, etc. We also will teach them about being responsible. You’re a top 2 percent earner in the world-of course there will be some self-indulgence. But you can’t drive all those cars. You can’t live in all those houses. We give so much of our power away. Those wasted funds can go back into our communities,” Howard concludes.

Now my Sundays will have a different viewpoint.

Also this weekend, the memory of two powerful brothers are being recognized.

The USTA’s Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day presented by Hess kick-off ceremony is Saturday, Aug. 27 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Families can experience an exciting schedule of free tennis games, live music and attractions taking place all over the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Appearing this year will be Diggy Simmons, and Carmelo Anthony and his wife La La will serve as co-hosts. Stadium show tickets are on sale now through Ticketmaster (1-866-OPEN-TIX), usopen.org and the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center box office.

Then there’s the BIG one. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedication in Washington, D.C. If you can’t attend, TV One will offer live coverage from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., anchored by TV One’s “Washington Watch with Roland Martin” host and managing editor Roland Martin along with Sirius XM radio host Joe Madison and Art Fennell, executive producer and host of “Art Fennell Reports” on the Comcast Network.

TV One’s coverage will include the best of the pre-dedication concert, expected to include performances by Mary Mary; the Ebenezer Baptist Church Choir; the Richard Smallwood Choir with Vanessa Williams; the Morehouse College Glee Club; Mary Chapin Carpenter; Mary Gurley (who sang at Dr. King’s funeral service); Bernice Johnson Reagon; Ann Nesby; hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari; and Poemcees; plus excerpts from Dr. King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech delivered the day before he was assassinated.

The lineup will also include coverage of the week’s events, including the Civil Rights Pioneers Luncheon, the Message in the Music concert of civil rights era music, the Women Who Dare to Dream luncheon, honoring female civil rights leaders, and the Celebration Dream gala. In addition, TV One will feature interviews with civil rights leaders and other celebrities taped during the week’s events, plus live interviews with visiting dignitaries, celebrities and special guests onsite. TV One’s live coverage will conclude with the formal dedication ceremony with expected participation by President Barack Obama.

What makes this even better is that TV One is now available to Cablevision customers.

I’m out. Hope your weekend will be solid as a rock! Peace, Nicholas Ashford. Holla next week. ‘Til then, enjoy the nightlife.