I am not role model. I’m not paid to be a role model. I am paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I can dunk a basketball, doesn’t mean I should raise your kids. – Charles Barkley
It’s been 14 years since the iconic Charles Barkley Nike commercial became a point of discussion nationwide. This summer I’ve been reminded of that commercial repeatedly; It’s a summer that has included Barry Bonds drug aided chase of Hank Aaron’s home run record, the sad and tragic tale of Eddie Griffin, the Chris Benoit murder-suicide, the NBA gambling scandal, and of course the Michael Vick dog fighting case. Never has sports seem so far away from role model status as now, but it’s the Michael Vick case is the one that has captured media and public attention.
What Michael Vick admitted to doing is sadistic and displays a huge fault with his personality that now is visible for all to see. I wish I were surprised at Vick, but the days of my being surprised at what sports stars do ended long ago. I realized long ago that professional sports is a high profile marketing medium similar to movies and television, designed for fan entertainment; and while the great share of people that play are good, hard working, honorable people but that the excesses thrown their way lead to distorted bad apples. This isn’t just sport, it’s all of entertainment. Remember that this summer has also had Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Nicole Ritchie all spend time in jail. With all that money and fame you can do extreme good, like Bono for instance or extreme bad – Michael Vick.
I also wish that I believed that the NFLs response were solely or even more importantly about their disgust for the acts, but we know that isn’t true. Michael Vick made them look bad, could cost them money and therefore they had to respond. I wonder though about the priorities. There are guys playing in the NFL that have spent time in prison for drug trafficking, been accused of attempted murder, been violent against women. Hoping to corner the market on wife beaters, the Philadelphia Phillies traded for a player that allegedly beat his wife. Not to belittle Vick’s actions (his actions are a clear indicator that he has serious violent tendencies that only start with dogs), but clearly they are not the worst things that have happened by the hand of a sports star. Think of Lawrence Phillips while he was playing football at Nebraska (btw, if your Wikipedia photo is a mugshot, that pretty much says it all):
Late at night when the team returned from East Lansing, Michigan, Phillips went looking for his ex-girlfriend, Kate McEwan, a basketball player for the Nebraska women’s team. He found her in the apartment of another football player, Scott Frost. Frost had transferred from Stanford the year before, and was sitting out the 1995 season. Phillips found McEwan and assaulted her by dragging her down a stairwell by her hair. Frost was eventually able to intervene, but not before Phillips had caused significant harm to McEwan – Wikipedia excerpt
What was Phillips’ punishment? He went on to star in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl and be drafted #6 by the NFL and paid millions. He never became a star because what happened in college turned out to be an indicator of who he was – go figure. When the Pittsburgh writer said that “Vick would been better off raping a woman” – it was harsh, and could have been better thought out and better said, but he may not have been factually incorrect.
We need to take special care on what people we decide to canonize. It seems these days all you need is a 8 digit bank account, be good on the field, or seen on the red carpet. These people have done nothing to deserve our praise. I’m not saying not to watch. I get great enjoyment out of watching sports – but would I want to have a player over for dinner? Not without knowing the person first. Being a professional sports star is not enough to garner my praise and it never will be.
- For anyone that will say they’ve always hated athletes, don’t look to me for agreement. I will not hate them because they’re athletes. You’re just as wrong as the people that praise them for nothing else than that. You think athletes are bad, I think Hollywood is worse. Think Lindsay Lohan would still be able to get work if she were a football player?
- A special comment here for the NAACP. You continue to relegate yourself into irrelevance. In your initial support of Vick you talked about celebrating his innocence in this case. Now you have egg on your face as he pleads guilty. I have no issue with your defending people’s rights, but it seems that you place a premium on the rights of the rich and famous. There is still racism out there and anytime you make high profile blunders like this, it lessens your ability to defend normal everyday working people. What about Michael Vick necessitated your involvement? He can afford the best legal teams and the best PR. How about looking after those men and women of color that can’t afford such.