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Sports Then and Now



Should Athletes Really Be Role Models? 3

Posted on July 17, 2015 by Ashley Andrews
Charles Barkley has made it clear that he is not a role model.

Charles Barkley has made it clear that he is not a role model.

While many still ponder the question–the likes of Charles Barkley come to mind–the question has already been definitively answered. Between cut scenes of him dunking a basketball on a practice court, he earnestly tells the camera:

I am not a role model. I am not paid to be a role model. I am paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.

This was a Nike ad during the heyday of the “Just do it” campaign. When the words, “Just do it” appeared at the end of the commercial, it is not obvious if they are referring to playing basketball, or raising your own kids in a responsible manner. What they most definitely exclude is the idea of using Barkley, or any other athlete as a role model for how you, or anyone else, should live their lives.

There are all kinds of reasons why Barkley’s words should be heeded. Here are a few:

Athletes Make Poor Life Choices

According to Axis Recovery:

Because of these factors (among a number of others), the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids states that sportspeople are “more prone than the general population to substance abuse.”

The three factors referenced in the above quote are:

  • An addiction to performance-enhancing substances
  • An addiction to stimulants to alleviate depression
  • An addiction to prescription painkillers

There are understandable reasons why professional athletes make self-destructive life choices. In no way is this intended to be a judgmental observation. But it seems like the last type of person you want to set up as role models for kids is the kind with ample reason to turn to drugs and alcohol as a necessary evil for getting through the day.

Beyond substance abuse, there are other habits one might not be comfortable encouraging such as gambling and sexually irresponsible behavior. Many of the behaviors of professional athletes can be attributed to the fact that they are all young. Professional athletes tend to retire in their early to mid-thirties, much younger depending on the sport. They often went from rags to riches overnight, without any prior sense of responsibility. Even under the best of circumstances, they are going to make a lot of bad decisions that others simply cannot afford to make. This is the recipe for an unlikely role model. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Hall of Famer Tony Oliva
      July 17, 2022 | 2:15 pm
      Tony Oliva

      After waiting for 45 years after his retirement, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is finally taking his rightful place as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

      Before injuries cut short his Hall of Fame worthy career, Tony Oliva was one of the best hitters in baseball and combined with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmen Killebrew to make the Minnesota Twins a perennial American League contender during the late 1960s.

      Discovered on the baseball fields of Cuba by a Minnesota Twin scout, Oliva came to the United States in 1961 and within three years the American League Rookie of the Year. There have been many great MLB players from Cuba, including a new generation of stars today, but it is hard to argue that there has been a better player from the island in MLB than Oliva.

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