Soon after Katrinaís calamitous wreckage of New Orleans, many star athletes donated thousands of dollars to assist with relief efforts, but their support has been harshly criticized by a discourteous few who believe they were grandstanding or should have dug deeper into their wallets.

Baltimore Ravens cornerback Deion Sanders was among the first to get negative press when he encouraged his fellow NFL comrades to pledge at least $1,000. The thanks he received? Scoffs by fans on various sports talk radio shows asserting he and other athletes were being miserly with their millions while trying to grab headlines.

From a logical perspective, most would assume that if any athlete wanted to score huge image points with the public after a tragedy of Katrinaís magnitude, he would surely throw in a few more Benjamins in addition to the grand that Sanders requested.

Many athletes, like New Orleans wide receiver Joe Horn, were so moved by the severe suffering of those who were evacuated that they donated more than the minimum Sanders asked and took time to visit survivors. Horn spent two days with families in the Astrodome in Houston and called on all New Orleans athletes to pledge their support.

Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant also took time to comfort families who were guests at a charity basketball game in Houston broadcast by TNT. Players who participated or played in this game at the Toyofta Center had to donate a minimum of $10,000 and over $1 million was raised before airtime.

Garnett, Bryant and other young stars such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Amare Stoudemire mingled with children whose parents have lost relatives, homes and jobs. Seeing smiles on the faces of their young fans who are in the midst of rebuilding their lives, Iím certain that roving reporters were the last thing on the minds of these NBA stars.

It is very disheartening that in a time when thousands of our fellow citizens are in desperate need that people would accuse athletes who are doing all they can to help as being egotistical. Granted, this generation of NBA and NFL players have certainly earned a "me first" reputation, but after seeing New Orleans reduced to Third World proportions many changed their outlook on life.

New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury was overcome with grief when he announced at an NBA players union conference last month that he was donating between $500,000 to $1 million. A young man of 28, Marbury sobbed like an eight-year-old as he mourned for children, Katrinaís most vulnerable victims.

"You see little babies floating in the water," he lamented to the New York media and his fellow players. "I mean, itís like my kids. You donít think about nothing else."

Still weeping uncontrollably he continued, "We complain about the littlest things Ö weíre so fortunate."

Throughout his career, Marburyís court image has not been that favorable, but there was no doubting the sincerity of his heart at this conference or the genuineness behind his pledge. Furthermore, in expressing his thoughts about his own children, it was evident that Marbury recognizes that what he has in family is of much more value than his annual $16 million contract.

Disgruntled sports fans can carp all they want about athletes and their motives in assisting with hurricane relief. Such simple-minded folk have no clue of the profound impact giving to and interacting with families had on Marbury, Sanders, and even the oftentimes stoic Bryant.

By helping to relieve the suffering of those who lost everything due to the destruction of Katrina, I donít think any of these athletes would have cared if they received no ink in the press for their efforts. Itís the truthfulness in their hearts that matters the most and the families they touched will definitely remember that.

Jessica A. Johnson teaches at Columbus State Community College and is a special correspondent for the Columbus (OH) Dispatch.