Are modern athletes role models?
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In 1993, Nike launched an all-new marketing campaign for NBA superstar Charles Barkley. The 6 ft. 6 in. power forward with a temper was one of the Association's brightest stars. Having moved to the Phoenix Suns, Barkley was a brilliant antagonist to the NBA’s biggest name, Michael Jordan. The NBA has plenty of great players and the bonus code gives you a chance to follow them. The same year Barkley signed with the Suns, he won the league’s Most Valuable Player award and led the team to its first NBA Finals since 1976. Jordan and the Chicago Bulls stopped Barkley’s ascent to the top of the NBA in six games, however.

Despite Barkley’s amazing season, and overall NBA Hall of Fame career, one thing is remembered more than his on-court performances. That one thing is his controversial Nike advertising campaign. In each of Barkley’s television adverts, he proclaimed he wasn’t a “role model”. It was difficult to agree with the bulky basketball star. He was watched by millions on the hardwood and was paid handsomely for his performances. Barkley was also paid millions of dollars to wear Nike shoes and to influence kids and adults to buy the footwear costing three figures. Yet, somehow, he wasn’t a role model.

Should athletes be role models?

In Barkley’s case, he was partly right. The power forward shouldn’t have been seen as a role model due to his on-court digressions and off-court hobbies. In 1991, Barkley spat on a little girl while playing for the Philadelphia 76ers. Out of context, the incident is awful. Yet, looking deeper, Barkley’s actions were due to a drunken fan yelling racial obscenities his way. Unfortunately, his way of dealing with the situation is more remembered than why he did it.

The incident came before Nike’s million-dollar marketing campaign, which tried to take the heat off Barkley. It did the opposite. Basketball fans can follow their favourite team with the JackPotJoy promo code this season. The public took Barkley’s message the opposite of how he intended it. According to the NBA player, his “I’m not a role model” slogan was written to get teachers, parents, and others to step up to be role models for kids rather than forcing athletes to fill the role.

Was Charles Barkley, right?

The simplest answer is no, but that hasn’t stopped many from believing athletes shouldn’t be role models. Millions of people look up to sports stars and they have a major impact on fans. Moreover, sports are one element of society that has a direct effect on mainstream culture. Athletes and sports leagues permeate pop culture and even people who don’t follow either regularly will have heard certain individuals' names.

Sports stars often dictate how young and old perceive and play a sport. Walk around the football pitches of England on a Saturday or Sunday morning and you will see young players emulating those they see in the Premier League. Whether it is through tricks on the field or the way they react after a referee’s decision, athletes influence these youngsters.

Even adults see professional athletes as role models. Many older fans hold their favourite athletes in high esteem. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is one of the most popular players in the NFL. Not only has he influenced millions of youngsters, but there are just as many adult fans that look up to the star. In fact, since he started his career in the early 2000s, many of his earliest fans have now grown into adults. They have taken their admiration of Brady into adulthood.

To be or not to be a role model?

Athletes are fallible. Whether they have given in to vices like drugs and alcohol (Michael Irving, Mickey Mantle) or something worse (O.J. Simpson, Aaron Hernandez), athletes are capable of doing the same deeds as everyone else.

But there are those, who overall, have become great public figures for kids and adults. Cristiano Ronaldo has had off-field issues, but continues to be a great philanthropist. He has also shown the value of working hard at his sport and what taking care of your body can do for performance. The WWE’s John Cena donates time to various charities and is a major contributor to the Make A Wish Foundation. These two are just examples of many great sports role models.

Those athletes, like Charles Barkley, who profess they are not role models do not understand the microscope they are under. Becoming a mainstream personality means you put yourself in the limelight to be dissected. Anyone willing to do that must deal with the consequences of being held to a high standard.