07/27/07 — Fallen athletes: Like it or not, they are role models — and should be

View Archive

Fallen athletes: Like it or not, they are role models — and should be

Many years ago, basketball player Charles Barkley caused a stir when he stood up and told fans and the media that he should not be considered a role model — that he was merely a basketball player.

His message was that he did not sign up to be anybody’s example of how to live their life. He signed up to play a game.

And since then, there have been many athletes who have used the same excuse for bad behavior, telling fans not to look to them for moral guidance.

This past week has been one of the worst debacles in sports with nearly every sport adding another black mark.

And again, the debate begins, should athletes be considered role models?

And while there is some evidence that many of them shouldn’t be, the truth is that they are — and that that attention comes with the job.

When you become famous and you work in a business that is financed by fans who buy tickets, you have an employer who has a right to expect reasonable behavior. And if you know that children are among that audience, you have an obligation to not be perfect, but to be someone who can be pointed to with respect.

Athletes are entering a business that is fostered and controlled by public opinion — and that carries with it a certain responsibility.

They are asking people to plunk down hundreds of dollars a year in some cases to come see them and to pay their salaries. The least they can do is to try to think of that before they embarrass their team and their fans.

Even if that is not what they think they signed up for.

Published in Editorials on July 27, 2007 11:40 AM