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Basketball player Charles Barkley once said ” I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” He’s got it right, at least partly. The last few years were riddled with athletic scandals. Most recently, the truth about Tiger Woods secret life came to light and shocked the country. This is proof that talent does not often equal character and not every athlete is worthy of the “role model” title.
But does a person get to decide whether he or she is a role model? Usually the youngest fans are often the ones to choose who they want to be like and or listen to. Amazing talent may blind a teenager to serious issues and prevent them from seeing an athlete through real world lenses.
Our culture approves of “being real.” but mature athletes should understand that there is more at stake in their career than the amount of games won. Tiny eyes are watching every move they make and teenage minds are digesting every decision. Superior athletes hold an enormous power to influence a whole generation. At the end of life’s journey what does an aging person want to hear? “Because of you I went to college, I worked hard at my marriage, I decided to be there for my kids” or “I took steroids to be the best like you and I cared more about partying than I did about my family” This is a burden that all athletes should take seriously.