Remember the athlete you idolized when you were younger? Players like Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan and Mia Hamm have been idolized by children and adults alike.

Think about how much influence these athletes have over people. Most people would say the athletes have a responsibility to be a positive influence, but others would defend an athlete’s actions no matter how bad. I think that is wrong.

In case you’ve been hiding from the news in the past couple weeks, two teenage football players at a high school in Steubenville were convicted of raping a girl at a party last August. Both were given time in jail.

These athletes were heroes in their town. The local economy was tanking and the local industry was leaving, so many people had only the high school football team to be proud of. When two of the team’s stars were charged with raping a girl at a party, many people lashed out at the victim. They blamed the girl for drinking underage, and they said that the players were not at fault.

According to Ohio state law, the teens raped a girl and that is not okay, under any circumstances.

Athletes shouldn’t be excused for illegal or immoral behavior because of their talent or position on a sports team. As seen with athletes like O.J. Simpson, Pete Rose and Lance Armstrong, there is a significant portion of people who would defend athletes who break the law just because of their athletic talents.

I completely disagree. Athletes should be held to a higher moral standard than regular people.

Athletes put themselves in a position where they influence the lives of people every day. Children dream of someday being like their sports heroes. These are minds that learn by imitating what they see.

Even high school athletes have influence. Younger siblings, schoolmates and other athletes look to these kids as role models. They look up to the older athletes to see how to act and they imitate the attitudes and behaviors of their heroes. If they see that it is okay to break the law or act in an immoral way as long as they are talented athletes, we might see a moral decline in upcoming generations of athletes.

Children aren’t the only people influenced by the actions of athletes. Adults love to follow the actions of their favorite athlete, on and off the field. How many people do you see wearing a shirt designed after the jersey of his or her favorite player? Entire cities riot in excitement after winning or losing a big game. Sports and athletes play a major part in some people’s lives.

Often, the actions of athletes reflect on more than just themselves. It reflects on their team, the city where they are from and even sometimes the sport itself.

You don’t have to look far to see that athletes have influence. Eastern’s soccer team held a special game last September where the team played with children from the Junior Colonels club. The team and the children got to spend time talking to each other after the game. This personal interaction is going to have an impact on the young soccer players.

The two football players from Steubenville messed up. No one should be lamenting about how their careers have been cut short.

I understand that people make mistakes, but the mistakes that anyone in the public eye makes have much larger repercussions than mistakes by your average Joe.

I just hope that the sports community will learn from the Steubenville incident. Athletes shouldn’t be held above everyone else legally or morally just because they can tackle a person or hit a ball.

One Comment

  1. I fully believe that we ALL should act all day every day as if EVERYONE is watching and be worthy of that attention, but there are people in the world who don’t care.

    Wouldn’t it be more responsible of us as parents, teachers and role models ourselves to teach young children that just because someone is an athlete doesn’t mean they are worthy of our worship? I think we, as a society, have put out priorities out of order on this. Just because someone can throw a football shouldn’t mean that we should look up to them. There are men who are worthy of our admiration that dig ditches everyday but we don’t push out children to be like them. As consumers, we are just as screwed up as these athletes.

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