This was actually in Tuesday’s Publishers Marketplace but I missed it… native Mississippian John Grisham donated $5 million to create the Rebuild the Coast Fund Organization to help uninsured people from Mississippi rebuild homes and businesses. “We don’t normally publicize gifts. It’s something we keep extremely private. But in these very, very rare circumstances–this tragic time–we hope this gift will get some attention and inspire other people to contribute money and help our fellow Mississippians on the Gulf Coast,” he said.
Here’s something to put Grisham’s incredibly generous gift in perspective. In Thursday’s Baltimore Sun, sports columnist Peter Schmuck bragged about the generosity of the Ravens’ football team. He talked about how Deion Sanders challenged every NFL player to donate $1,000 to the hurricane relief efforts. Then, Ed Reed, Alan Ricard, and Jamal Lewis led a movement in the locker room to gather $165,000 from the rest of the team. Team owner Steve Biscotti matched the players’ contributions twice, and former Baltimore owner Art Modell also matched the players’ contribution. So, as Schmuck writes, the original $165,000 turned into $660,000.
Now, in a crisis like this, every single dime is needed and worthwhile. Anything helps and any act of kindness and donation should be rewarded and honored. But the Ravens team has 53 players on the active roster, 8 players listed on the practice squad, and 5 injured players. Linebacker Ray Lewis has a $50 million contract that included a guaranteed $19 million signing bonus. Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden also has a $50 million contract that guaranteed $20 million in the first two years. Running back Jamal Lewis has a $35.3 million contract. Defensive back Samari Rolle has a one-year, $1 million contract. He was recently suspended for one game and had to forfeit one-week’s salary of $58,823. And the team owner, Steve Bisciotti, paid $325 million for Art Modell’s share of the team on April 8, 2004. These are undoubtedly some of the higher paid members of the Ravens organization, and as football fans know, NFL contracts are not guaranteed. But still, it’s amazing that almost 70 individuals involved in a professional sports organization are applauded for coming up with $665,000 while a writer, a fiction writer, for crying out loud donates $5 million.
This isn’t to criticize the Ravens; I know the organization is planning to do more for hurricane relief and the players frequently donate (Ray Lewis in particular is said to frequently toss off hundred-grand checks for charities without a second’s thought) to causes in the city. Instead of criticizing the Ravens, I’m just trying to explain just how incredibly generous Grisham’s gift is.
So let’s hear it for John Grisham and if I find out more about how you can contribute to his new organization, I’ll let you know.