Outside local teams, where's the support?

October 24, 2008 5:08:59 PM PDT
Houstonians have always shown big support for the Astros and the Texans. Those teams have returned the favor by helping out Hurricane Ike victims. But the support for Ike victims from the NFL and Major League Baseball is much less than what those leagues gave after Hurricane Katrina. ROAD TO RECOVERY: How you can help | Person locator | Important phone numbers | Assistance from FEMA | Filing a claim

A lot was made of the immediate response here as it compared to Hurricane Katrina. But how have some of our most visible corporate citizens responded in the weeks after the storm, namely, professional sports franchises.

Here along the Gulf coast, we've not only seen the pictures on TV. We've lived Ike. We know how bad it was. And so does Texans owner Bob McNair.

"We had a lot of people here who lost their homes," he said. "It was more of a lingering effect."

And that's why he and his team have collected more than $2.45 million to this point for Ike relief, and they're still working to raise money while they work to improve a 2-4 record.

As the Texans continue to tackle the needs of those hurt by Ike, the question is what are other sports teams and leagues doing to that same end?

The Houston Astros pitched in one million dollars and then with the help of fans, another $44,000.

"We set up cash collection sites throughout the ballpark," said Rita Suchma with the Astros in Action Foundation. "We were able to do a jersey auction with all of the players' jerseys that were worn on the very last game."

That's more than five times what the team gave to Katrina relief, but the Astros are the exception to the rule.

For example, the NFL's players, teams and fans gave more than $22 million post Katrina. It's nowhere near that this time around. And Major League Baseball donated double what it offered post Ike. Granted, the estimated insured losses for Katrina exceeded $43.6 billion, compared to a minimum of $9.8 billion for Ike.

But McNair says he knows the real reason giving outside of southeast Texas is not what it was three years ago.

"The giving has been there," he said. "But again, you didn't have the pictures of the city underwater. So I think as far as the nation is concerned, people outside of this area don't understand that we were hit as hard as we were."

You might think that the downturn in the economy might be affecting the giving for Ike relief. But most philanthropic experts believe the country's financial problems won't really affect charitable giving until next year.

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