Athletes Are Not Role Models

Many parents look to professional athletes to be role models for their children. Parents themselves, however, should be their own child’s role model. The supreme athletic feats performed by these athletes on the field represent only a small portion of who they really are. In many cases, the character of the athlete that they portray on the field far differs from what it is off the field. When the final buzzer sounds and the game is over, the players still breathe and bleed just like everyone else, and will still face the temptations of everyday life. Professional athletes are paid to perform their sport at a high level. They are not, however, paid to be role models for children, and therefore are not role models.

From the time he was drafted into the National Football League in 2001, to the time he was a Pro-Bowl quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons in 2006, Michael Vick became an NFL superstar. His uniform was sold nationwide, as kids all over the country looked up him. Then, when they found out what he was doing outside the football field, every one of those children was betrayed by Vick. It was later uncovered that just months after being drafted by the Falcons, Vick set up shop for a complex illegal dog fighting business that he ran until 2007, when it was discovered, and Vick was sent to Parents rely heavily on athletes to be role models for their children. This, however, makes for confusion as well as a sense of betrayal when the athletes misbehave off the playing field.  New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was a well-liked, respected player looking forward to a long career in the NFL. Then, in early 2013, Hernandez was convicted of first degree murder and sent to prison. Young Patriot fans everywhere were betrayed by Hernandez, and New England sports stores understood why. For a limited time, they allowed anybody that purchased a Hernandez uniform to trade it in for the jersey of any other Patriot player, proving the disappointment fans felt in him.  Hernandez further proved that nobody truly knows what these athletes are involved in once they step off the playing field.

There are, however, exceptions to this theory. New York Yankees shortstop and captain Derek Jeter is a role model for children. On the playing field he demonstrates character, perseverance, and leadership skills that inspire young children to play baseball, as well as any other game, with respect and passion. He is constantly working hard, and his high level performances show that hard work really does pay off. Off the field, Jeter is active in many charity organizations including the Turn 2 foundation, which he founded. The Turn 2 foundation aims to inspire America’s youth to steer away from drugs and to “turn 2” a healthy lifestyle.  Jeter is just one Major League baseball player out of the 750 in the entire league, however.

Parents may look to him as a role model for their children, but his character is far above the average athlete. Because of this, parents should not use Jeter or other athletes as role models for their children. One player should not represent the entire field of players. Each is completely different, and their activities off the field reflect on these differences. Instead, they should use the positive characteristics and good deeds players like Jeter do to show their children how to properly behave.

In a 1993 Nike commercial, hall of fame basketball player Charles Barkley stated, “I am not a role model.” Barkley, who was known for his gambling and anger issues, understood that while he spent most days playing in the National Basketball Association, his job was to play professional basketball, not to be a role model for children.

Professional athletes are normal people with normal problems and temptations when they step off the playing field, and parents should not look to them as role models for their children. Instead, parents should be their own child’s role models, and use the good characteristics of athletes to inspire their children to stay healthy and active.