Footystars aren’t role models; parents are

Natalie Medhurst Roar Rookie

By Natalie Medhurst, Natalie Medhurst is a Roar Rookie

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    Sydney, February 20, 2002. Cronulla Sharks rugby league new recruites Matthew Johns (centre) and Brett Kimmorley (right) share a joke with Jason Stevens (left) at team training at the Sutherland Police Citizen Youth Club. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

    Sydney, February 20, 2002. Cronulla Sharks rugby league new recruites Matthew Johns (centre) and Brett Kimmorley (right) share a joke with Jason Stevens (left) at team training at the Sutherland Police Citizen Youth Club. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

    Athletes, and in particular those within Australia who play football (whether it be League, Union or AFL), live in a world where they are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to play their chosen sport and where their actions, both on and off the field, are under a large scale microscope.

    For the majority of society, it is hard to imagine the world that they live in, as the scrutiny, media frenzy, god-like status and pressure these players face is hardly a reality for most.

    As the nation hears about the alleged sexual assault on a New Zealand woman by former rugby league player Matty Johns and his teammates, many people question their status as role models in today’s society.

    When it comes to athletes, in reality, should they even be given that title to begin with, rather than having it automatically thrust upon them?

    Surely a role model should be based more around a person making a difference in society and being someone who people want to emulate, rather than being given that title just because of person’s chosen career or the amount of money that they earn.

    Whilst many athletes have worked hard at making a difference through the likes of charity work and raising awareness for such causes, for a vast majority, being given this title just does not seem to fit with the actions and attitude that role models should possess.

    Perhaps the focus should be more on their responsibility of just being good citizens, rather than having to deal with added the pressure of being positive role models for children.

    After all, drug use, sexual assault, physical assault and the like should not be acceptable in society no matter who you are, not just because a particular person has a somewhat ‘celebrity status’.

    How do athletes get to thinking that these actions are ok? Does it come from their parents, their teammates, or the club culture?

    Clubs also need to take responsibility in helping to mould these players into being good ‘role models’ and decent members of society, especially as many of them are brought in to this type of scene at such a young age.

    However, too often do we hear or see clubs defending a player’s action or not taking enough control of a situation and creating a club culture that is accepting of indiscretions.

    Perhaps NBA Champion Charles Barkley had it right when he said, “I don’t believe professional athletes should be role models. I believe parents should be role models…. It’s not like it was when I was growing up. My mom and my grandmother told me how it was going to be. If I didn’t like it, they said, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.”

    Parents have to take better control. And perhaps the sporting clubs should too.

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • May 15th 2009 @ 7:57am
      Steffy said | May 15th 2009 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      What alleged sexual assault? The police investigated it, they interviewed about 80 people and decided there was no case to answer. It’s trial by media again. The Police have said they have no intention of reopening the case, they are happy their investigations were thorough and that no assault happened. The media seem keen to act as judge and jury here based on the accusations of somebody granted anonymity on a TV programme. Let’s leave these matters to the police and the courts or does that not sell papers or generate TV ratings or web site click throughs? What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Does that not happen in Australia? Is the media so powerful in Australia that hearsay can bring somebody to their knees or even an entire sport? The media in Australia has to look at itself because the way it works at the moment stinks.

    • May 15th 2009 @ 9:36am
      Kento said | May 15th 2009 @ 9:36am | ! Report

      Steffy, I think you miss the point of Natalie’s article. She’s making a simple point from her own perspective as a professional athlete. This is that professional athletes aren’t necessarily role models. A role model should be someone who’s earned the respect and maybe we need to adjust our thinking a little.

      I think it’s a valid point.

      The other element is that clubs need to take some responsibility in this matter. Cronulla have been pretty quiet really on this issue.

    • May 15th 2009 @ 9:42am
      fred said | May 15th 2009 @ 9:42am | ! Report

      even good parents come second to peers.
      far too simplistic and unresearched to take seriously

    • Roar Guru

      May 15th 2009 @ 9:47am
      Redb said | May 15th 2009 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      Many young footballers leave the family home at 16-17 years old to join a sporting club (or move towns/cities) which when they are at their most impressionable. At 16-17 most of us were pretty silly, parents simply aren’t in the picture for budding sports starts, the clubs have to take on that responsibility.

      Redb

    • May 15th 2009 @ 10:07am
      alex said | May 15th 2009 @ 10:07am | ! Report

      Footie players are not role models? Yeah right? Who do you think pays their big salaries? It is the well resourced clubs cashed up by big advertising and marketing deals. The money comes into the sport because of the brands that utilise them. This is even before we consider the massive government funding the sports get.

      The price for enjoying the benefits of this gravy train is being public property. If players don’t want the attention then they need to find another sport, like lawn bowls. Lets remember that no one forces them to play. So if you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen.

      As to the legalities around this case, some issues to consider are that something not being illegal does not make it right. But the really tough one is whether consent was given, was it given for all players in that room, did that consent change during the situation and was the woman able to make that decision. In other words, was it a fair contract (which is what consent fundamentally is).

      This case is so polarising because these are not easy questions.

      Then we have the issue of Australia being the most competitive footbal market in the world with four contact codes. Lose the support of families and you will lose the next generation of players, supporters and therefore advertisers. Channel Nine acted because they were terrified by anxious advertisers.

      If all this is unfair on Mr Johns well consider that he is happy to take the money these brand executives give him; so these are the rules he has implicitly agreed to abide by.

      Of course the rest of us are free to reject advertising support but if we do then we better not expect to see any footie on TV because no broadcaster could afford to show it.

    • Roar Guru

      May 15th 2009 @ 10:52am
      Chop said | May 15th 2009 @ 10:52am | ! Report

      Hey Alex, you need to consider that they employed Matty Johns AFTER the incident. It’s only the media re-hashing the story (with considerable bias IMHO) that’s led to this second wave of hysteria.

      As I’ve said in other posts on here, what he did was immoral and in my opinion fairly disgusting but he has not been charged with anything after a thorough investigation, but has absolutely been convicted, sentenced, hung drawn and quartered by the court of public opinion for his immorality and it stinks of double standards.

      If you were in that position would you have lost your career? Faced such public ridicule? I doubt it. She could only pick him out because of his profile. Matthew Johns has taken the fall for so many other unnamed people on this incident.

      Alex Said:
      Then we have the issue of Australia being the most competitive footbal market in the world with four contact codes. Lose the support of families and you will lose the next generation of players, supporters and therefore advertisers. Channel Nine acted because they were terrified by anxious advertisers.

      If all this is unfair on Mr Johns well consider that he is happy to take the money these brand executives give him; so these are the rules he has implicitly agreed to abide by.

      Of course the rest of us are free to reject advertising support but if we do then we better not expect to see any footie on TV because no broadcaster could afford to show it.

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