Hall of Fame basketball player Charles Barkley famously stated, “I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” After it was stated that former New Orleans Saints player Darren Sharper was charged with rape, the question is: are there any role models left in professional sports? I can tell you right now the answer is no.
As much as the public likes to watch a game for entertainment, some people need to be reminded that players are not perfect. Following the Miami Dolphins bullying incident, it certainly does not make a case for professional athletes being role models. It was determined that Richie Incognito and other teammates harassed Jonathan Martin in multiple ways. The Wells Report has the details, but the public must focus on the behavior from both sides. Some think that Martin was not “man enough” to handle the situation, while others believe the bullying was over the line. Just those two viewpoints alone tell us that neither party can be a role model because both sides are under attack.
Parents tell stories of their favorite athletes to their children, but they sometimes pick and choose what to say, and for good reason. Young children do not understand that professional athletes are adults. Adults sometimes go to the strip club and have one too many beers or get into altercations. These athletes should not make alterations to their lifestyles because people want to see them as role models. Even I, a Yankee fan, do not see Derek Jeter as a role model because he is an athlete. Yes, he plays the game “the right way” but there could be that one press conference where he says the wrong thing and everything goes out of control. Additionally, the media aids in hurting reputations.
We are not in a perfect world, but we try to idolize these players for greatness on the field. The Hall of Fame, in any sport, shows how great a player or coach was on the field. As for personality, that is a different story. A fan by the name of Claude Lueker accused Cobb’s mother of being half black, which caused Cobb to jump into the stands and beat the fan up. It should be noted that “Lueker had lost a hand and three fingers in an industrial accident…,” so Cobb was pummeling a man with literally two fingers. Other players like Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds have also landed in hot water. The NBA has its fair share of polarizing players along with the NFL, but ultimately, your favorite player will find a way to break your heart.
Just remember, a role model should care about how you are doing in life. The most obvious role model should be a close family member. If you do not like your family, then maybe a high school teacher or coach. Nobody in high school to look up to? Try a college professor; maybe visit during office hours and just chat for a few minutes.
However, if you want a professional athlete to be your role model, then that’s fine too. Keep this in mind: you will have to acknowledge his or her faults when someone mentions that athlete, even if they are deceased. Lou Gehrig is my role model, but I do not think he was perfect. That applies to all other role models as well because humans are not perfect.
Remember, you can make your own path. It depends on who you choose to believe in and how many people you believe in. Also, keep an open mind. Maybe someday there will be a living professional athlete that I can believe in. Until then, Charles Barkley is right when he says that he cannot be a role model.