Aaron Hernandez, Lance Armstrong and Athletes: Death of the Role Model

role modelsAmerican culture has nurtured a belief that athletes are role models. Many people grab their children close and point to the TV using phrases like “You should want to be like him or her when you grow up.” Children have uttered the phrase, made popular by corporate advertising, “I want to be like Mike.” But have many gone too far? Has a portion of society lost track of who our role models should be? Have those parents forgotten how important it is to ensure your child has the tools to succeed both mentally and emotionally? The answer to all those questions is a resounding and emphatic YES.

Like it or not athletes are role models. Is this the athletes fault? No, but it is a role they must accept until society gets back to what really matters. And what matters is not the professional athlete. A professional athlete is famous because of a tuned and inherent skill set honed over years of practice and dedication. However 2013 alone has not been kind to the professional athletes society sees as role models for their children. Let’s just discuss a few crowning moments of monumental shame.

Image Courtesy of Dominick Reuter/ Reuters

Image Courtesy of Dominick Reuter/ Reuters

Aaron Hernandez can catch a football, is he what you want your children aspiring to be? Aaron Hernandez has been arrested and charged with murder (along with other gun related charges) in the death of Odin Lloyd, he is accused of shooting a man in Miami after a strip club altercation and had a checkered past including a failed drug test and reportedly hanging out with the wrong crowds which caused him to drop to the fourth round of the NFL draft. Is he innocent or guilty? That is up to the courts to decide and until a verdict is in Hernandez is presumed innocent. Even if nothing comes of the lawsuit related to the Florida shooting or if Hernandez garners a not guilty verdict on his current charges it provides a window into the type of man he is.

With millions of dollars in his grasp and the good life in the palm of his hands Hernandez could not avoid trouble. He is, at a minimum, a person who lacks judgment and does not know how to make the right decisions for himself let alone others. Are these the characteristics of a role model? Hernandez is not the only marquee name making errors in judgment. Alex Rodriguez, on a much different level, has also shown why athletes shouldn’t be role models.

Image Courtesy of Corey Simpkin/NY Daily News

Image Courtesy of Corey Simpkin/NY Daily News

Alex Rodriguez could hit a home run, is he who you want your children emulating? Alex Rodriguez burst on the scene with all-world talent and quickly became one of Major League Baseball’s rising stars. However, the money and fame were never enough for the man known as A-Rod. A-Rod began using Performance Enhancing Drugs to stay at the top of his game and then denied that he ever took them. In fact A-Rod told Katie Couric of 60 minutes in front of a national television audience that he never used PEDs.

One year later, after it was leaked that he did take PEDs, he sat down with Peter Gammons to apologize for being young and stupid. Here we are in 2013 and A-Rod is linked to PEDs again. Is this the type of person you want your children aspiring to become? Hernandez and A-Rod are not alone. Let’s not forget about Lance Armstrong.

Lance Armstrong could pedal circles around cyclists, are his morals what you want your kids copying? Armstrong is a cancer survivor and helped found the Live Strong Foundation sparking a belief and love in him the world over. He won seven Tour De France titles and became the beacon of faith and belief in one’s self. He always said he did it through hard work and clean living. However Armstrong was linked to PEDs and blood doping on numerous occasions and suspect to rumor multiple times. Armstrong sued and won cases for defamation of character again media outlets that claimed he was a user. He posed with his jerseys and used them to parade around under a false guise of greatness.

Image Courtesy of George Burns/Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc./AP Photo

Image Courtesy of George Burns/Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc./AP Photo

Then it happened, the sanctions came down, the evidence was insurmountable and it was proven that Armstrong was not only a user of PEDs and blood doping but the ring leader in the process. He was stripped of his titles and banned for life. He went to the hard core media outlet known as Oprah’s Couch to apologize for his transgressions. Unlike A-Rod who just lied about using. Armstrong actually attacked others in the media through the court system for in essence speaking the truth about him. He TOOK MONEY from people for SPEAKING THE TRUTH! It doesn’t get much worse than that. To me all the good Armstrong may have done is and will forever be overshadowed but the evil nature deep in the man’s soul. Is this the type of man that defines a role model?

I have said it previously but it bears repeating. Those are the people that are the role models for our youth, the people that the younger generation aspire to be like and the people always in the public eye with a responsibly to do their part in molding the future of our children. How unfortunate and sad is that? It is up to the parents and families to stop this from happening. It is up to them to make it right. It is up to them to TEACH, that’s right TEACH their children about right and wrong. Do not leave it to friends. Do not leave it to the schools and at all costs do not leave it to the professional athletes. They are just trying to do a high profile job that does not require a strong moral backbone. When you become a parent you adopt the responsibility and it should always be taken seriously.

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  • Wally Dolan

    Really good article. Could not agree more. Athletes are people just like everyone else. No matter your athletic ability, ethnic origin, gender, age or economic station in life we all have to decide what kind of a person we are. I’m sure we are all not as perfect as we think we are. Athletes are fun to watch and follow but they are not responsible for raising our children. None of us would like every mistake we make being plastered all over the papers and internet but then again when you make the kind of money professional athletes do, it has to come with a price. It is sad when we hear about the Lance Armstrong’s out there but just makes me appreciate the Pat Tillmans all the more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wpatterson9 Wade Patterson Jr.

    I think athletes as a whole are fine. You’re right its the bad apples that spoil the bunch but part of the problem here is the media. Good news is boring. Bad news sells. Based on that, the bad gets magnifed so much that no one in this digital age can avoid it. It stands to reason that its going to make it to the kids’ attention so there really is no way to completely avoid it. I agree with what you said about parents. At the end of it all, they are the ones responsible for instilling the moral compass. Nice article.