It's a story as old as multi-million dollar contracts in sports.
Athlete turns professional. Athlete makes big bucks. Athlete suddenly discovers friends and cousins he didn't know he had. Athlete becomes strained as friends and family he was always close to hold out hands, expecting a piece of the pie.
Athlete finds himself with a dilemma: When do I cut the financial umbilical cord?
For Tyron Smith of the Dallas Cowboys, his family made that decision pretty easy for him. As Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News reports, Smith's family crossed the line once again looking for money:
On Tuesday afternoon, Dallas police responded to a 911 call to Smith’s North Dallas home, where siblings showed up to “harass and torment” him “in the pursuit of collecting financial gain,” according to the police report.
Smith, 21, has three sisters and two brothers. Two of the sisters were among at least three people who showed up at Smith’s home Saturday and Tuesday, sources said. The police report did not name the individuals.
It is the latest in a string of events over several months in which family members have tried to harass Smith for their financial benefit, according to sources.
The string of events includes Smith filing a protective order against his stepfather and his mother to prevent them from harassing him over money. Later in the summer, one of his family members had to be removed from the Cowboys practice facility, likely due to another money-related disruption. Since that incident, his family has reportedly continued to ask in increasingly hostile manners, culminating in Smith's 911 call.
I think anybody who has come upon wealth and has any sort of love for family and close friends be happy to offer some financial relief. Buy the parents a house. Wipe out school loans. Take everyone on a nice vacation.
But there are limits. The people I would most want to share that wealth with are the people least likely to ask for money; the people I know wouldn't look at me any differently if I were worth a hundred million dollars or barely had anything in my bank account.
It's the leaches that coincidentally rediscover an old friend's phone number or fabricate a connection that need to be avoided. It's the folks that think an athlete owes them something that will be willing to take a free handout—and expect it, too.
I can't imagine how much it must be tearing up Smith right now that his own flesh and blood would turn on him. And yet, he's not alone. This probably happens more than we even hear about or documentaries like Broke from ESPN's 30 for 30 series show us.
So often, as a society, we dehumanize athletes unjustifiably. They become scapegoats, cash cows and commodities. We all think they "owe" us something.
Well, guess what—they don't. Beyond going out on the field and doing their best since that's what they are paid to do, they don't owe any of us squat.
It's nice when they stop to sign autographs for children or do community outreach—those who do good with the privileges they receive should always be praised—but we aren't owed these things. Athletes don't belong to us.
It's a lesson that Smith's family apparently doesn't get, and now they've put him in a position where he has to legally separate himself from them. It's just sad.
And, unfortunately, way too common.