Celebrity athletes: Should we even think of star athletes as models?


 Charles Barkley Tiger Woods’ public apology raises a fundamental question: Why should a celebrity athlete bother to make a public apology in the first place?

A callous reason might be to protect the brand. Star quality translates into big money. Big sponsorships. Big bankroll. A public “my bad” helps to buff a tarnished image and yields a positive return on investment.

Some have argued that Woods’ public apology is part of his therapy, a necessary step along his personal road to recovery.

A public apology seems to be called for when there’s a gap between words and deeds. Woods maintained a carefully groomed public image that was shattered when his behavior revealed that he was, like all of us, an imperfect and fallible human being. He claimed the hero role and had to atone for his fall.

All this makes me wonder: Why does extraordinary athletic ability translate into role model status? What does the physical ability to drive a golf ball, dunk a basketball, or slam home runs say about the character of a person?

Not much. If anything, it reveals a relentless self-centeredness in the pursuit of excellence.

Basketball legend Charles Barkley—known as Sir Charles for his imperious and outspoken manner—famously said: “I am not a role model.” He repeated this many times in his career. You may recall his Nike commercial in which he said that he was paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court, not to be a role model. Parents, he said, should be role models – not star athletes. The ad ends with Barkley saying: “Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”
Do you agree with Sir Charles? Or, is there something about being a star athlete that translates into role model status—and obligations?


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