Footystars aren’t role models; parents are

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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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