Should Athletes be Role Models for Young People?

What is a role model? The official definition in a dictionary states that it is somebody to be copied; a worthy person who is a good example for other people; someone worthy of imitation; a person who is unusually effective or inspiring in some social role, job, etc. and so serves as a model for others.[1] 

Although, many athletes believe it is unfair to hold them to a higher standard of behavior; a survey conducted by the American Bible Society showed that athletes were considered important role models to 18.3% of the teens who participated in the survey. Whether an athlete accepts it or not, he or she is definitely seen as a role model to some children.[2]

Many sports writers say that athletes should not be role modes. “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 behaviors off the field. They’re so used to people looking the other way.”[3]

“The idea that people who make millions of dollars to play a game should be idolized by our youth today is a travesty. What are kids supposed to think when they see stories regarding steroid use among baseballs greatest sluggers, including Bonds, McGwire and Sosa. Is that the type of message that we should be sending. That you must do whatever is necessary to succeed, even if it means cheating, lying and hurting yourself in the process. More and more, high school athletes are taking the lead from professional athletes who are at the pinnacle of their respective sports, and more and more it is leading to disaster. Steroid use is at an all time high among high school seniors, a direct correlation to the mammoth statistics by superstar sluggers who cheated the game.”[4]

What does this Post have to do with Sports Law or Law in general? James Madison, the fourth president, known as “The Father of Our Constitution” made the following statement “We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”[5]

Bobby Bowden, the venerable long­time coach of Florida State football com­mented a few years ago on the problem. He said. “So many kids now that I’m coaching that are coming up, they think no more of breaking the law than the man in the moon. Most of them don’t even know them. Some of them don’t even know the Ten Commandments. And they’re what I call ‘living in sin’ and don’t even know it. I sure appreciate my parents disciplining me and trying to teach me what was right at that early age.”[6]

Bowden was right about the fact that many young people have been brought up without knowing the Ten Commandments, but that does not give them-or us-a rea­son to ignore God’s commands. However, a missionary to Indonesia was trans­lating Scripture into the language of the people. As she did her work, she wondered if they would be able to comprehend the difference between right and wrong. So she asked the people to begin naming what they felt were the top rules for living. To her shock, these people, who had never even heard of the Bible, named the rules that we know as the Ten Commandments.[7]

When God codified those rules and etched them in stone for Moses, he was not making up new rules. He was simply put­ting down in writing what he had already put in every human heart.[8]

Aside from their unusual and gifted talent, professional athletes are usually people just like you and me. They experience the same family problems other people do, have to pay bills like we do, and basically have a home life, albeit usually a larger home than the rest of us have – a lifestyle that is similar to that of many middle-class Americans, although on a far-larger scale. Athletes come from different social and cultural backgrounds and are a reflection of those backgrounds, which are fundamentally based on family and education.[9]

Should we hold athletes to a higher standard? The Ten Commandments were not written just for them. Should not we all be role models for young people?

 


     1 The Webster dictionary defines a role model as somebody to be   copied: a good example for other people; someone worthy of imitation; someone who is usually inspiring.

2 Role Models by Cheryl Weldon, http://cawworldwide.com/rolemodels.html  

3 Raina Kelley, They’re Not Role Models. Why we should stop worshiping athletes—unless they’re on the field. Newsweek, March 11, 2010 

4  Farzin Mojtabai, Athletes Negative Impact on Kids Exposes Societal Flaws, http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/26607/athletes_shouldnt_be_role_models.html?cat=40

5 James Madison, 1778 to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia 

6 Sports Devotional Bible, Zondervan, 2002

7 Id

8 Id                                        

9 USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education), Sept, 2001 by Gary Sailes