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Athletes as Role Models

"An athlete with undying will, tremendous courage, awesome defense, and unbelievable scoring. Michael Jordan, a man who seems to be without a weakness, makes a great role model for youths and adults ("Role Models on"). Michael Jordan shows he is also a great person off the court by the way he has given his money to charities and has dealt with the difficulties in his life. This is a person who is looked up to and admired by people everywhere. Michael Jordan is a role model, just as all athletes in the spotlight. When people become professional athletes or any kind of athlete that is brought into the public eye, they become a role model. A role model can set good examples by being educated, having good morals, and by staying drug free; or they can set bad examples by doing the complete opposites of these actions.
As role models it is important that athletes show the youth of today the importance of getting an education. It seems that high school and college basketball players have not been doing a very good job of setting this example.
A record 37 underclassmen, plus three high school students, made themselves available for the recent National Basketball Association draft, adding to the growing concern of many that more and more young men, particularly black men, will abandon educational pursuits for hoop dreams. (Farrell 15)
When younger kids see these players pass up their education for the attempt to get rich quick it sends the message that education isn't that important. John Thompson says, " One of the dangers of what is going on is that it minimizes the value of an education" (Farrell15). There is a very small few of amateur basketball players that make it to the NBA, and this is another reason why leaving education for the NBA is not such a good idea. The way things are going college might be looked at as a momentary preparation for the NBA. " College coaches will be trying to impress upon recruits how soon they can get them ready to play professionally, and the educational element will go out the window," says Alex Wood (Farrell 16).
Some athletes have taken the opportunity to show kids that education is important and is something that should be valued. The Michigan State University athletes are involved in a program in which they go to kids in the classroom to talk and hang out with these younger students. This is both good for the college student athletes and the younger students. Kevin Carr says, "We've been wanting to do this for a while, It's definitely a way to help our athletes to get in the spirit of voluntarism"(Reaching Out). This program is good for the kids because it lets them take good advice from the older more experienced college student athletes. Ike Reese said, " We go to school just like they do. I like to show kids that athletes can be role models and that we're not untouchable" (Reaching Out). The program also shows that good athletes can also be respectable students, this is really good for the young kids to see (Reaching Out). When these athletes talk to the kids in the classrooms it helps inspire the kids to strive towards their goals and dreams.
Part of being a role model includes setting a good moral standard for the people who watch sports on television especially the kids that watch them. " Athletes can deeply affect children at a critical stage in development. Many kids from about 8 to 12 years old, looking for examples of success, fantasize about becoming athletes and identify with them" (Wilstein B1). It is obvious then, the things that the athletes do on television do affect the way the children will act. "Fighting, taunting ,and trash-talking among the pro and college players, shown repeatedly on television, lead to similar actions in football, basketball and baseball in high schools" (Wilstein B1). It seems as though there has been a lot of negative examples in sports world lately. One of the negative examples was published in the December 23rd issue of Sports Illustrated of last year. The material that was published was an interview with Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker. In this Article Rocker used some rather vulgar language. He also made some very negative remarks about the New York subway system. Rocker complained about having to sit with "some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time next to some 20 year old mom with four kids" (Rockers Arrival).
Another example of the negative occurrences in sports was when hockey player Marty McSorley hit fellow hockey player Donald Brashear on the head with a hockey stick, which gave Brashear a concussion. Today in sports there is a large amount of violent attitudes and actions, this example is just one of them. Ken Keiper, the chairmen of the NCAA's Division II baseball, talked about the brawls in major league baseball. Keiper said, " I don't see the mound-charging brawls yet in the youth leagues, but if they continue at the major league level, the kids will emulate them and it will definitely come" (Wilstein B1).
Some athletes set good examples by doing good things for others. Deion Sanders is one of these athletes that has done something positive for the people. Sanders gave food, toys, and other goods to the community for an organization called Feed The Children. Sanders said in a brief interview," I'd like to point you to something everlasting. I'd like to give you peace, give you joy, and love" (Baker 1D). He also wanted to remind people that after he gives this food to the people that there will still be hungry people in the world, and it is our job to help these less fortunate people out. Sanders also mentioned how he used to be the bad mouth Deion, but he never really liked that part of him so he changed his ways. Deion spent hours passing out food to the people in his community. Sanders is faithful to his community and he is also faithful to God. Deion is a dedicated Christian (Baker 1D). This shows how caring, giving, and unselfish he is as a person. Our society needs these types of role models for people to look up to.
One issue that seems to come up quite often with the mention of athletes is Drugs.
" Of all the major athlete drug testing programs, only the NBA does not test for marijuana, because the NBA drug policy does not include marijuana in its list or banned drugs"(Athletes With). This is probably the main reason they have had such a problem with marijuana. It's not good for young kids to see such big names as Chris Webber, Kareem Abdul Jabar, and Isaiah Rider arrested for the possession of Marijuana. "Evidently, players rarely say no these days amid reports show that as many as 70% smoke pot at least on a recreational basis" (Athletes With). In previous years the NBA had its problems with cocaine rather than Marijuana. " In 1983 (when the first drug policy was implemented), 70 percent of the NBA players used cocaine, and marijuana wasn't on the radar screen" (Athletes With). When cocaine was big in the NBA the players would love playing Golden State because that area a hot spot for cocaine. In the 1986 draft the NBA had a number of draft picks that had cocaine problem. Len Bias was one of the draft picks with a cocaine problem, and the night of the draft Bias died of a cocaine overdose. Chris Washburn, William Bedford, and Roy Tarpley all had their basketball careers ruined because of their cocaine addictions. That year there was four out of the top seven picks in the draft that saw their careers just deteriorate (Athletes With). The sad thing is that the bad guys aren't always the ones who get caught. Allen Iverson, the Philadelphia guard, has had some bad influences around him. On one occasion Iverson and one of his friends were riding in Iverson's car when they were pulled over and were found with a marijuana cigarette and a gun were found under the seat. The friend that was with Iverson in the car was involved in a shooting and drugs a year before the incident in the car. Most of the people who spend time around Iverson say he is a good guy and is very well liked (Athletes With). These are some of the problems with drugs that could have a negative affect on the youth in our society.
There are some good programs that have athlete role models that help kids live a drug free life. One of these programs that does keep kids drug free is Athletes Against Drugs. It not only helps keep the kids away from drugs, but it also helps the kids to learn to lead a productive life. The program is made up of 200 professional and Olympic athletes (Athletes Against). The athletes in this program are using their fame to help these kids live a better life. Michael Jordan talks about the program when he says, "We're not just telling kids to say no to drugs. We are giving them something to say yes to healthy activities, life skills, youth leadership and a chance for productive futures" (Athletes Against). This program isn't just giving the kids to say when it comes to dealing with drugs. This program is giving kids a place to go instead of hanging around the streets where most of the kids are faced with drugs. Athletes Against Drugs also tries to prevent kids from getting involved with gangs. The reason why most kids get involved in gangs is because it is a place where they feel they can fit in(Athletes Against). " The gang has a definite hierarchy, with established leaders, roles, and responsibilities. The problem is that a gang life usually leads to a long prison sentence or an early grave"(Athletes Against). Sports is one alternative to gangs and drugs and Athletes Against Drugs helps the kids to make the choice to choose an activity like sports over these other two harmful choices. "The behavior of a life time is shaped during early adolescents, between the ages of 10 and 14" (Athletes Against). Athletes Against Drugs helps to mold these kids behaviors at a young age. It also teaches them very early to resist peer pressure when it could possibly get them into trouble, and it teaches them to stay out of trouble by monitoring themselves.
Athletes are role models, and it is the athletes decision to either use their influence for a positive or a negative cause. Some athletes don't think that it is their responsibility to be role models, but it doesn't change the fact that they are indeed role models. " I didn't ask to be a role model. I wasn't prepared to be a role model. I don't want to be a role model," Ron Barr talks about some of the athletes attitudes about being role models (Athletes: Dumb). The professional athletes and other athletes that are in the spotlight can not expect to be watched by millions of people and not have some influence on those people watching. The athletes must realize that when they make mistakes people will be watching. " Everyone does make mistakes, and along with those mistakes, one must take responsibility for the consequences that come after a mistake has been made" (Athletes Are). They probably wish the people just saw that good things they did, but if this was the case we would be living in a utopia. As role models athletes can do many positive things such as educating our youth by letting them know the importance of going to school. They can help instill good moral standards for kids to live by, and prevent them from getting involved with drugs like the program Athletes Against Drugs does. These are what the athletes should be doing as role models.

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