WESTWOOD—Anyone who loves movies and loves superheroes has heard the famous line, “With great power comes great responsibility.” This held true for Spiderman, but in reality it can be passed on to any area of a person’s life. If you’re the leader of a company, it’s your responsibility to make sure the company is running efficiently and legally so it makes money. If you’re a father it is your responsibility to take care of your home and teach your kids the right way to live if you have any, and if you’re a professional athlete it is your responsibility to carry yourself well for the people who look up to you.
In the first two aspects of life I just mentioned, there may be many times when those responsibilities are not met, but the difference between a father who abandons his fatherly duties and a football player who gets caught getting high on camera is that one isn’t really heard about and the other makes headlines all over the world.
I have talked about this issue a few times before so excuse me for being a little repetitive, but this problem continues to be a major problem in the realm of professional sports. Of course I’m not arrogant enough to think I, alone, will be a major influence on this issue, but I believe this is a topic that needs to be continually addressed because of the effects it has not only on sports, but the huge effect it has on young athletes who aspire to be like the players they see on Sports Center every day.
In the past few years there have been many different athletes paraded through the media for alleged crimes. Let’s look at pro golfer Tiger Woods and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Keep in mind none of these men have ever been convicted of any sort of crime, but their actions and the consequences of those actions make it worse than most petty crimes that are committed every day. The glaring reason behind this is the fact that these men had unbelievable ramifications. It was a negative representation of their family, organizations they belonged to, their sport and their teams. A common criminal might be lucky enough to get off with some community service or some brief jail time, but for some reason professional athletes, and others in the sports world, are held to a higher standard. Sleeping around is not a crime, but Tiger Woods lost millions in endorsements, lost time on the golf course, lost respect from society and hurt his wife irreparably. The same goes for Roethlisberger. There is nothing wrong with spending time with young women, but because she said four letters he will lose six games in the upcoming season and has already lost his reputation and image amongst the Pittsburgh Steelers, along with many other people outside the NFL.
Sometimes questions come up asking “What’s the big deal?” or “Why are they even getting punished if they were found innocent?” The answer comes in the form of another question. How would you like yourself to be portrayed? It’s a harsh reality, but everyone is going to die at one point and no one would want to be known as the guy who slept around or the guy who always had a joint in hand. The NFL and any other professional sport is no different. Athletes are some of the most powerful people in society because of the influence they have over people. There’s a reason why some sports icons end up as high ranking political figures or business moguls. People—especially young children—look up to these athletes and tend to use them as a model for their own lives. They want to be like the Michael Jordans or Adrian Petersons, and some will follow whatever they do just to be like them. Professional sports recognizes this and that is why they hold athletes to a higher level. They want positive role models and their athletes to represent their organization the right way. When a certain individual decides to do their own thing, it makes the entire league look the same way.
Sports are a great part of life and I believe there is nothing better than watching two teams or individuals compete against each other at the highest level possible. On the field, court, track or green, many of these players seem like the greatest people in the world and people think they can do no wrong. This feeling of invincibility can sometimes give athletes a false sense of security, and the belief that they can do whatever they want without suffering the types of consequences of the Average Joe. The reality of it all is they are more exposed than anyone could ever be, and just like they know how to protect themselves from harm on the field, they need to learn how to do the same thing in their everyday lives because whether they realize it or not, someone is always watching.