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Athletes give humble help

It’s easy, and often justified, to bash famous pro athletes for using and abusing their fame in negative ways.

Since that’s the case — and it always will be the case as long as newspapers, television shows, the Internet and whatever follows exist — it’s also right to recognize pro athletes when they turn their popularity and wealth into something good.

Since the earthquake in Haiti, sports stars, teams and leagues have — just like all of our country does in times of great need, whether that need is domestic or overseas — responded with a large amount of charity.

Samuel Dalembert, the NBA’s only Haitian-born player and a center for the Philadelphia Sixers, donated $100,000, filmed ads to encourage people to donate to relief efforts, addressed the Philadelphia crowd about donating to UNICEF before a game last Friday, and traveled to Haiti this week for two off days between Sixer games to help with Project MediShare.

What was behind Dalembert’s trip to Haiti, was an idea summed up by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder as he was talking about the donations made by the Redskin organization: “We’re not a relief organization, but there are times when our resources allow us to step in and make a difference, if only a small one.”

Snyder and his franchise flew medical supplies, medical personnel and clothing to Haiti. It would be easy to say this was the best move Snyder made this season, but let’s let that pass.

Chesapeake native and Indian River alum Alonzo Mourning has been working with rescue and recovery teams in Port-au-Prince since Friday.

Mourning flew out of Miami, where he played with the Heat for much of his NBA career. Miami has a huge Haitian immigrant population.

Mourning told a Miami TV station he went with the team to do “anything they want me to do.”

“I’ll do manual labor, or any other kind of labor. I’m here to help them,” said Mourning. That’s a far cry from being the superstar of an NBA team in the fourth quarter of a playoff game.

The NBA and Major League Baseball have pledged $1 million each. NASCAR’s biggest and best team, Hendrick Motorsports, is using its private airplane and two flight crews to send teams and supplies non-stop to Port-au-Prince around-the-clock and indefinitely.

With the same philosophy shown by Dalembert and Mourning, it doesn’t take stars to make a major difference. South Dakota State’s basketball team — led by head coach Scott Nagy going barefooted for a game this coming Saturday — is heading up an effort to collect $50,000 and at least 2,000 pairs of shoes to be sent to Haiti.

It’s good to know that not all of the news about sports stars lately is negative.