Greedy Bankers, Wall Street Bonuses and the Terrible Towel
President Obama’s scolding of the financial industry Thursday for awarding itself nearly $20 billion in bonuses during one of its worst years in decades pretty much speaks for itself. Instead of piling on here, let’s just turn instead to the late Myron Cope, the longtime voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the inventor of the Terrible Towel, a fixture in Steeler Nation.
Cope invented the thing, and he could have gotten rich from it, or passed the wealth down to his family. He did neither. Instead, The New York Times reports, Cope gave trademark rights for the towel to a network of group homes across Pennsylvania for people with severe disabilities. Proceeds from sales of the $7 towels pay for specialized wheelchairs and other equipment to help residents.
With the Super Bowl this Sunday, sales of the towels are expected to skyrocket — and with them, profits for the group homes.
From The Times:
A Steelers victory would most likely lead to orders of at least 500,000 more for a pair of Super Bowl versions of the Terrible Towel, one with the score against the Cardinals, the other declaring the Steelers as six-time Super Bowl champions.
Before this season, Allegheny Valley School had received more than $2.5 million from the towels since 1996, said its chief executive officer, Regis Champ. Roughly $1 million of that came during and immediately after the 2005 season, when the Steelers won Super Bowl XL. This season is likely to top that.
“It’s an incredible help for us,” Champ said. “We’re a nonprofit organization, and our primary funding is through Medicaid. While Medicaid is very good to people with disabilities, it is limited in what it will cover.”
Champ said that Myron Cope wanted the money to go not for construction projects, but for individual assistance for residents. Recent purchases include high-end specialized wheelchairs and sensory programs that allow severely disabled residents, including quadriplegics, to perform tasks such as turning on lights or music with a movement of their eyes.
The money has also been spent on adaptive communication devices, computers that give voice to those who cannot speak.
The kicker here is that Cope’s son, Danny, is a resident at one of the schools. Proceeds from the towel have paid for one of the computers he uses.
The next time you read about former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain’s $1,000 wastebasket, or the millions of dollars in retention bonuses at AIG, or Citigroup trying to buy a $50 million jet, remember the world is still full of other kinds of people, the kind who set their sights on different goals and find alternate uses for their profits.