Influence. It dictates our lives.
Sometimes that influence comes in the form of politicians, such as Barack Obama, other times in the form of cultural advocates, such as Kendrick Lamar.
Growing up, I’ve always idolized athletes, putting them on a pedestal. Yet, considering some of the recent events in the scope of sports, I have had to reevaluate this decision – due to off the field controversies, the image of sports is rapidly declining. The current attitudes put forward by a large number of influential athletes, aren’t the athletes of old, they are a new breed, one not to be admired.
Athletes across various sports have been making negative headlines surrounding domestic and child abuse. Nothing new in the wide spectrum of sports, but with serious incidents such as those of NFL players Greg Hardy and Ray Rice, and NBA players such as J.R. Smith taking their anger out on heckling fans by choking them in public, the levels of immaturity and unnecessary violence have been propelled to new heights.
In the realm of sports, children begin to worship athletes at a young age. I did so with stars such as Justin Tuck of the New York Giants, but that was a different time – a calm before the storm of controversy. Athletes such as NFL player Adrian Peterson and NBA player Ty Lawson, two players infamous for their recent domestic and alcohol abuses, respectively, are the new voice of an athletic generation, and that is a concerning trend from the outside looking in.
A large part of what I do with my free time is write, specifically about sports. Through that I’ve had the privilege of knowing many professional athletes, whether it be through one-on-one interviews, talking to them in the locker room or simply just over email. Because of that, I have been able to see the trials and tribulations that their occupation poses. The constant threat of paparazzi, the anguish of defeat and the new exposure to fame are all ordeals for many athletes. However, unjustified actions such as those of Hardy ruin the reputation of the National Football League (NFL) and sports in general.
While athletes such as Derek Jeter, LeBron James and Larry Fitzgerald do humanitarian work on a regular basis, these are some of the exceptions to the current scope of immaturity in sports. More often than not, many athletes such as Hardy treat their title as if they are higher than the rules.
Due to Hardy’s stature as a decorated defensive end in the NFL, his first response in his domestic abuse case was through his financial means. Acting quickly, charges were dropped – due to him paying legal officials – proving further that his wealth and reputation contributed to his escape from the legal process that is supposed to be binding for all of us. He got away freely, even when the evidence was against him.
In an incident occurring on October 30, but exposed on December 8 by Yahoo! Sports, four time MLB all-star Aroldis Chapman was accused of firing eight gunshots in the garage of his Florida home prior to choking his girlfriend. Another instance of domestic abuse arising within sports.
As cliché as it may seem, the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” applies here. Athletes not only cater to large audiences, but contribute to the reputation of their teams and respective sports. When hockey player Alex Ovechkin sleeps past his alarm and misses practice, he is showing poor character for the countless kids watching Sportscenter that day.
I hold sports in high regard. Through the actual games, fantasy sports or my writing, sports have always been a constant in my life. But recently, with characters such as Hardy disgracing the face of both the NFL and the greater world of sports, it is time for me to question the athletes that I hold in such high regard and question the influence they have over me.