OPINION – Where have all the role models gone, or were there ever any?
The National Football League finds itself neck-deep in bad public relations, or PR, and image as yet another pro football player ended up posing for a mugshot last week.
Adrian Peterson, a star running back for the Minnesota Vikings, turned himself in to police Saturday after a Montgomery County, Texas, grand jury indicted him on a felony charge of child abuse.
Peterson hasn’t made a public statement yet, but his attorney, Rusty Hardin, said that Peterson was charged because he used “a switch to spank his son” in doling out discipline, much like “he experienced as a child growing up in East Texas.”
In the wake of the Ray Rice scandal, this does the NFL’s image no good.
Sunday morning, the CBS pregame show featured an exchange between former NFLer and Pittsburgh Steeler coach Bill Cowher and Charles Barkley, who made a living dunking basketballs in the NBA.
Barkley argued that athletes should not be revered as role models, that many just don’t fit the mold. Cowher disagreed.
Barkley was one of the few NBA stars I enjoyed watching. He was tough, incredibly talented, and, most of all, brutally honest.
He earned a level of respect from me when, during the ‘90s, he put together one of the most straightforward commercials I have ever seen when his signature Nikes went on the market.
“These are my new shoes,” he told viewers. “They’re good shoes. They won’t make you rich like me, they won’t make you rebound like me, they definitely won’t make you handsome like me. They’ll only make you have shoes like me. That’s it.”
Barkley’s got an ego. He’s a rough and tumble guy. He’s been picked up by the cops for a DUI. I wouldn’t want a child to look up to him as a role model, but neither would he, and for that, I respect his honesty.
And, that’s the trouble with sports.
The money is so big, the endorsements so important, that it’s no surprise when team and league officials downplay it when some overpriced jock gets hauled into jail.
Only now, it’s not so easy and sooner or later, the truth has a way of surfacing.
We’re still wondering what the NFL knew and when it knew it in regards to the Ray Rice domestic violence case. And, I can certainly understand the doubters and skeptics who are calling for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s head.
But, at least he admitted bad judgment in the way he originally handled the situation and took steps to correct it, rewriting the league’s policy and stiffening penalties for offenders.
What has your company or place of work done to combat domestic violence? Is there a policy in place to punish offenders? Is there some kind of program or training available to stamp out this scourge?
I didn’t think so.
But, the larger issue remains regarding role models, which we seem to be hooked on, and quite frankly, at this point, I don’t think there is a field from which to draw any.
Whether it’s from the world of sports, entertainment, politics, religion, science, or wherever, we have learned that far too many heroes have feet of clay.
For some, it simply doesn’t matter.
We’ve seen presidents who were womanizers, drunks, and addicts; spiritual leaders with predatory sexual habits; musicians who preached “Give Peace A Chance” to a public that was ignorant of the fact that at home, their “star” was a serial wife beater.
Still we feed their wallets and egos.
It’s time to tear down those pedestals and assume some responsibility for guiding our children and others along a more enlightened path that may not lead to a $100 million celebrity contract, but will teach civility, love, and respect for our fellow woman and man.
I was shocked by the number of people, for example, who showed up at the Baltimore Ravens game a week ago wearing replicas of Ray Rice’s uniform jersey as a show of support for this thug. I found it repugnant that his wife was forced into the position of defending this man and, obliquely, assuming some responsibility for getting punched senseless in a hotel elevator.
You have the power to change this, you know.
Just stop watching their games, buying their CDs, following them in worship, voting for them, making them into these fictional characters that are beyond reproach and giving them a pass when they cross over those distinct lines of decency.
You have the power to influence by word and deed to teach civility, respect, restraint. Don’t hand it over to somebody you’ve never met just because they can run with a football, sing a nice song, or happen to sit in a position of authority.
The telling line in all of this surfaced in the statement by Peterson’s attorney, who said his client was simply doling out discipline much like “he experienced as a child growing up in East Texas.”
Beating a child, a partner, anybody, is not acceptable, no matter how one was raised. Those actions, we have learned, only propagate the behavior to ensuing generations.
There’s a meme I’ve seen posted on Facebook a sickening number of times that refers to how some of us were raised – including beatings with belts, switches, or other objects – as a way we learned, “… and we turned out OK,” it usually says in summation.
No we are not OK, not as long as we perpetuate violence and disrespect and hatred and a system that makes it OK to beat your wife or child as long as you are a sports hero.
I wrote recently that the NFL took a bold step in the right direction with its new policy on domestic violence.
I’ll stand by that, although we are learning that, perhaps, Goodell was responding to public pressure rather than acting in good conscience.
But, at least he did something.
As parents, we too can do something, and that is to become the kind of role models our children deserve.
- Relationship Connection: How can I get my husband to discipline our kids?
- Relationship Connection: Our ‘good cop bad cop’ parenting is polarizing our kids
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- Our Prussian model of public schooling; controlling the masses
- Relationship Connection: Undermining parental authority
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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