Former NBA journeyman Paul Shirley never really made his mark as a player, but he did gain some notoriety as a writer. That notoriety is bound to turn negative now, following an essay that basically says giving money to Haiti is a waste.
Shirley starts off his column on flipcollective.com saying he knows what he is about to write might "make him a monster," but he forges ahead anyway. He says he hasn't given any money to the Haiti relief effort, and that he probably won't.
I haven’t donated to the Haitian relief effort for the same reason that I don’t give money to homeless men on the street. Based on past experiences, I don’t think the guy with the sign that reads “Need You’re Help” is going to do anything constructive with the dollar I might give him. If I use history as my guide, I don’t think the people of Haiti will do much with my money either.
Before the reader reaches for his or her blood pressure medication, he should allow me to explain. I don’t mean in any way that the Haitians deserved their collective fate. And I understand that it is difficult to plan for the aftermath of an earthquake. However, it is not outside the realm of imagination to think that the citizens of a country might be able to: A) avoid putting themselves into a situation that might result in such catastrophic loss of life. And B) provide for their own aid, in the event of such a catastrophe.
Shirley rationalizes that Haitian officials knew they were on top of an earthquake fault, yet built Port au Prince using flimsy construction techniques anyway. And he says there's no evidence leaders will do it right this time around.
If it were apparent that Haiti would likely rebuild in an earthquake-resistant way, and if a cure could be found for hurricane abuse of island nations, then maybe one could imagine putting a sustained effort into rebuilding the place. But that would only be feasible if the country had shown any ability to manage its affairs in the past, which it has not done.
Shirley admits Haiti's long history of government corruption is partly to blame for the country's problems. But he blames the Haitian people for that.
The sentiment expressed is one of outrage at the government. But, ultimately, the people in a country have control over their government. One could argue that in totalitarian regimes, they do not have much control, but in the end, it is their government. And therefore, their responsibility. If the government is not doing enough for the people, it is the people’s responsibility to change the government. Not the other way around.
The backlash against Shirley has already begun. He lost his gig as a writer for ESPN.com: Here is the company's terse statement in its entirety:
He was a part-time freelance contributor. The views he expressed on another site of course do not at all reflect our company's views on the Haiti relief efforts. He will no longer contribute to ESPN.
Shirley's brief NBA career lasted just three seasons, in which he played for three teams, the last being the Phoenix Suns in 2005. He appeared in a total of just 18 games overall.