Professional athletes in the United States have demonstrated a clear ability to play sports at a very high level. There is no doubt that professional athletes in the United States are among the best in the world at their respective sports—however, being very good at sports does not necessarily make one a good person or a good role model for children. This is not to say that there are not professional athletes that are good role models for children; horeswever, the American public treats professional athletes as though they are much more suited to the role of “role model” than they actually are.
As previously stated, there are definitely athletes that qualify as good role models for children in the United States. These athletes participate in charity events and make sure that their money is going to good causes; they are people who have found themselves in a situation where they are making a lot of money, and they want to utilize that money to do good things in the world (Williams). Some athletes certainly understand that there are children and adults that look to them and model their behavior, and they take that responsibility very seriously (Williams). Professional athletes have all worked very hard at their sport of choice to become the best they can be, and developing a skill to the point of professionalism is something that children should certainly aspire to. The level of skill that professional athletes demonstrate when they play shows determination against adversity and a struggle against the odds—all these things are positive qualities that children and adults alike can admire.
However, the fact remains that despite their struggles against adversity, most professional athletes are not good role models for children (Mendes). One need only look as far as the NFL to find multiple examples of athletes that are violent against the women in their lives; there are many examples of professional athletes acting in ways that are inappropriate for public figures (Mendes). Indeed, the NFL has even had a scandal recently that involved the death of a man at the hands of one of the players (Mendes). Although not all American football players are murderers, there is clearly a culture of violence that permeates through the organization without any attempt to curtail it on the part of the organizers and leaders of the organization (Mendes).
Violence against women is another thing that many professional athletes have been known for in recent years. There have been rape scandals and other incidents involving athletes at all levels—even the high school level. One could easily argue that the blasé attitude that the professional organizations show regarding violence and accusations of violence against women has permeated through the ranks of professional athletes into the high school athletic field; there have been multiple incidents involving high school athletes and gang rape that have occurred recently in the United States (Mendes).
The problem is not that professional athletes are inherently bad people, or that they cannot control themselves; the problem is that professional athletes are, essentially, just people who are good at sports. They became famous not because they were particularly good people or because of their intellectual contributions; they became famous because they were good at sports. This does not mean that they should not be appreciated for their skill or that they should not be paid for their skills; instead, it means that as a whole, the public should recognize what their skills are, and appreciate them for their abilities. Professional athletes that deserve to be lauded for their good behavior can easily be determined based on their actions; however, raising every professional athlete who has established some fame is highly irresponsible.
Many professional athletes struggled hard with poverty while they were growing up, and as a result, they act quite differently when they become wealthy (Mendes). This may mean that they become focused on charity work, but it may also mean that they become irresponsible with their wealth, and begin to spend money irresponsibly or begin to party extensively (Mendes). By elevating professional athletes to “hero” status, the American public has essentially lumped all of these individuals into the “role model” category without considering whether or no they are actually good role models for children.
Children are often gullible and unable to tell a good role model from a poor role model. The media is very good at portraying all sports stars as heroes and role models; this is something that parents have to be very aware of when they are teaching their children about the nature of the media. Teaching children to discern a good role model from a bad one is important; teaching children to value others for their skills, achievements, and contributions is also important. Children can certainly be taught to value sports stars for their abilities without elevating them to an unnecessary role model status.
Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say / I Say. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2010. Print.
Mendes, Ian. 'Why Athletes Should Never Be Role Models For Kids'. Today's Parent. N.p., 2014. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.
Williams, Lara. 'Why Do Athletes Make Good Role Models?'.LIVESTRONG.COM. N.p., 2013. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.