The Return of the Professional Athlete Role Model
It seemed like the past five years, all we heard off the field was sports athletes in jail, getting arrested for alleged rape, dog fighting, taking steriods or drugs, and sending lewd photos.
Michael Vick. Ben Roethlisberger. Brett Favre. Plaxico Burress. Maurice Clarrett. Mark McGuire. Kobe Bryant. And the list goes on and on and on. It seemed life half of the NFL or NBA was on probation, in a lawsuit, or at some point had a run-in with the police. And it felt like half of the MLB was on steroids after the Mitchell Report came out.
Professional athletes, once role models to almost every kid who dreamed of playing under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden or in the snow at Soldier Field, suddenly became the definition of crime, thuggery, and poor values.
But as I’ve started to recently hear more stories like the Eagles flying from LA to NYC to get the back of a bullied kid or Mark Sanchez befriending an 11 year old with rhabdomyosarcoma, I’m starting to believe that the trend may be reversing. The NBA Cares initiative, the MLB teaming up with the Susan G. Komen foundation to swing pink bats for breast cancer, and the NFL’s Tribute to the Troops are examples of the organizations’ focus on restoring league-wide images of peace, goodwill, compassion, and benevolence.
Small actions, but they speak volumes for the return of the professional athlete role model. And while there is a ways to go, I’m optimistic and very happy to see these steps.