As a child I remember how I dearly idolized my favourite professional athletes from Mats Sundin to Vince Carter.. they were always of extreme importance. Growing up a fan of pretty much every sport, I saw athletes as humanly divine beings who i connected with via love of sport. However as I grew older and more scandals were reported each day, I began to question the notion of professional athletes as good role models. Growing older allowed me to see the truths behind professional Athletes and what most ‘stars’ stood for.
In the last ten years there have been an abundance of sporting scandals that have put many professional athletes in jeopardy. Michael Vick, Michael Phelps, Tiger Woods, Manti Te’o are just a fraction of athletes that have been caught for cheating or doing illegal activity in the last while. Headlines continue to tell similar stories of famous athletes involved in DUI incidents, domestic violence, alcohol
consumption and other illegal action. Taken these incidents into account along with emotional volatility of young athletes, it is understandable why many have a hard time being a positive role model to children.
The debate of athlete as role models have two opposing views. One side that argues for athletes to encompass the traits of a strong role model as it is a essential part of the money they earn . However some do believe professional athletes have no obligation to be a role model for children. Charles Barkley, a world famous basketball player and now analyst is famous for the commercial he starred in. The commercial highlighted Barkley’s ideas on athletes obligation to be a role model, as he stated “Just because I dunk A basketball, doesn’t mean I should raise your kids”. Barkley argued that there are a million people in jail that could dunk a basketball but meanwhile he’s being asked to be a role model for possessing the exact same skill.
Heather Reids argument compares athletic competition to socratic philosophies to portray the obligation of a professional athlete. She states,’In both sports and life, technē may bring success, but aretē is the real and lasting prize’. Arete originated in the greek language and is translated to mean moral compass in english. Reid explains that professional athletes don’t only have an obligation to extend their physical prowess, but must also display proper moral virtue in a world that places much more emphasis on physical success. Justin Blackmon is a player who coincides with the type of character explained by Reid. Blackmon was drafted into the NFL over four years ago however has only played twenty games in the National Football League. I remember watching Blackmon and being so impressed with his skill set as it was so incredibly deep. Since his draft year Justin has had serious alcohol and drug issues that has forced him to miss two of four years and will most likely end his career. Blackmon emulates an athlete that had success via techne however ultimately failed due to the lack of moral compass he displayed (arete).
Steven Ortiz, A sociologist professor at the University of Oregon state explains why athletes maintain this bad behaviour. “Spoiled-athlete syndrome begins early in sports socialization. From the time they could be picked out of a lineup because of their exceptional athletic ability, they’ve been pampered and catered to by coaches, classmates, teammates, family members and partners. As they get older, this becomes a pattern. Because they’re spoiled, they feel they aren’t accountable for their behavior off the field. They’re so used to people looking the other way.”
Kobe Bryant emulates what Steven Ortiz would classify as a ‘Spoiled Athlete’. Coming into his draft year, Kobe Bryant was the most sought after rookies which clearly impacted his future behaviour. A couple years into his career, it was announced that Kobe had been charged with raping a young 24 year old girl. After months of deliberation, Kobe was found not guilty and later re-signed deals with his endorsement companies. This situation portrays the lack of consequences that professional athletes are faced with and explains why their attitudes rarely change. Kobe Bryant established himself as a major role model in the sport of basketball representing the best player since Michael Jordan. Being the worlds best player comes with a responsibility of being a role model to all children who look to make the same impact as Kobe did in the NBA. However just like many others, Kobe let his fan base down by associating himself with adultery.
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By idolizing sport stars off the court or field I had set myself up for failure as I noticed athletes were less and less like the average person. With today’s social media coverage at its highest rates, pro athletes are more susceptible to making errors that negatively effect their reputation. It took 15 years of my life to notice that pro athletes are only human, and that a majority of the ones you look up to have temptations beyond their childhood upbringing.
Although pro athletes can have positive effects on the physical exercise of children, we must remove them from a moral pedestal. Professional athletes do not represent strong role models and we must mould our perspectives differently. Parents, Doctors and others in your community need to be the role models children look up to as it would offer realistic goals.
As a lover of sports it was a difficult ‘pill’ for me to swallow as I had grown up emulating so many of my favourite stars. I am not advocating to fully ignore sports athletes as models. I find it an imperative that children these days understand athletes are human and therefore have human characteristics and flaws. By nature professional athletes are put in the spotlight and instantly become role models of children all over the world.We must educate younger generations to recognize the difference between on and off field role models. Although athletes have money, fame and take up a lot of your spare time does not mean one should allow their children to be morally faithful as it will often lead to disappointment.
Berry, Soven. “Athletes’ Roles: An Investigation on Why Not All Athletes Make Good Role Models.”Bleacher Report. Bleacher Report. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <http://bleacherreport.com/articles/969596-athletes-role-an-investigation-on-why-not-all-athletes-make-good-role-models>.
D’adamo, Vince. “Remembering Charles Barkley’s Role Model Theory : St. Helena Star.” Napa Valley Register. 23 July 2014. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <http://napavalleyregister.com/star/sports/remembering-charles-barkley-s-role-model-theory/article_e8855e8f-ba4e-5b95-a899-1a084a8b06ca.html>.
Reid, Heather. “ATHLETIC COMPETITION AS SOCRATIC PHILOSOPHY.” Acta Univ. Palacki. Olomuc., Gymn. 36.2: 73-77. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.