Former NBA star Charles Barkley once starred in a commercial for Nike where he stated that he is not a role model.
Given the recent spate of news regarding less-than-desirable behavior from athletes ranging from adultery (Tiger W.), guns (Gilbert A.), and dog-fighting (Micheal V.), I would be inclined to agree with the man once known as “Chocolate Thunder”.
However, let me flip the argument that “athletes are not role models” to assert that role models can be athletes. Some examples if I may….
1) Charity: There are several examples of athletes from all sports setting up charities, camps for kids, or simply just participating in their organization’s charitable arm (i.e., NFL Charities). My example for this post is the Nnamdi Asomugha of the Oakland Raiders who does what he can to help the kids. Regardless of how you personally may feel about why athletes do charity (i.e., self-promotion, a true desire to give back to the community), it cannot be denied that they are doing good work when they participate in acts of charity.
2) Darius McNeal: In February of 2008, at a high school basketball game between Milwaukee Madison and DeKalb, a Milwaukee Madison player arrived later to the game. This player had just lost his mother to cancer, but decided to play anyway. Because his coach did not expect him to be at the game, he did not put the player on the roster. When the player did show up, the coach went to put him in the game, but the team would have to be charge with a technical foul because the player was not on the roster.
Aware of the late player’s situation, DeKalb senior Darius McNeal went to the free throw and deliberately missed the easy shots. McNeal later told the DeKalb Daily Chronicle, “It was the right thing to do”.
An more descriptive article can be found here.
3) Pat Tillman: Tillman was a player for the Arizona Cardinals who gave up a sports career and joined the US military in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He joined the US Army Rangers and served in Iraq and Afghanistan before being killed in a friendly fire incident. Personally, his sacrifice of money and fame for honor and duty should make him a role model to many.
4) Reggie Yates: Don’t fret if the name doesn’t sound familiar. (My apologies if I mess up this story as it happened some time ago, and (oddly enough) Google was no help in refreshing my memory.) Reggie Yates was a basketball player at Tustin High School (California) in the early-1980s. One day, while playing a pick-up game with some friends,a younger boy fell into a storm channel that was running high with water due to the rains the day before. Without a thought, Reggie jumped in to the churning water and manager to get the boy to safety. Sadly, he was not able to save himself and he died saving another.
In the quad at Tustin High, there is a memorial plaque with his name on it. People pass by it by daily and probably do not understand why it is there and the sacrifice it entailed.
It’s been nearly thirty years since that incident and I have never forgotten. Bless you, Reggie.
Charity, Doing the Right Thing, Duty and Honor, Sacrifice: Those are role models.