Those are four examples, four different players, but if you look around enough, that makes up a pretty significant percentage of the coverage the media shows on a regular basis: accusations of foolery or someone else’s money.
If so much time is spent on that, then there surely isn’t enough time to showcase an athlete’s obligation to be a role model, right? Of course not, and that’s because one of the greatest basketball players who ever lived told us back in the early-90s told us he isn’t a role model, and was aided by one of the most influential brands in my lifetime, to do so:
Now, I understand what Sir Charles was saying, and while I agree with him, we all know athletes have a stage and wield an influence over the youth that even I, someone who has been involved in athletics since I was ten years old, may never fully understand. I have friends who are coaches; they have their kids for hours on end, and they are some of the greatest role models a kid can have. However, ask them what would happen if LeBron, Wade, or Kobe showed up at a practice just to talk to their kids for 30 minutes? Those dudes hold so much influence over a kid that it’s scary, and any coach will tell you the same thing.
Chris Johnson is one of the best running backs in the NFL. The media coverage on CJ has been either (a) his play on the field, or (b) his desire for a new contract. As I said earlier, that’s pretty much the way it is, but here’s something that went completely under-the-radar: Johnson donated $10 for every rushing yard he gained to Metropolitan Nashville Public High Schools. Well, he gained 1,364 yards this year, so that means the Metro Public High Schools in Nashville have $13,640 they didn’t have at the beginning of their school year to go towards athletic equipment, uniforms, and facility upgrades in their athletic department.
Marion Barber is another running back in the NFL who plays for the most scrutinized team in the league: the Dallas Cowboys. While people are critical about his style of play, his contributions off the field should be held in even higher regard. The man recently donated more than $500,000 worth of computer equipment to 21 schools in the Dallas Independent School District, and for anyone who is keeping up with what is going on in our school systems, this was a monumental deed by Barber. The funds were able to cover 600 netbooks and 30 desktops.
Carmelo giving $3 million of his own money to build an athletic center at Syracuse University, Nic Harris and his foundation which is centered on giving back to kids, numerous NBA players sponsoring and being heavily involved in their AAU teams, DeSean Jackson and his efforts with anti-bullying, Deion Sanders and his community work with young athletes, as well as plans to launch a charter school are all examples of what athletes are doing to make society a better place, and not only that, they’re doing it for the youth.
These are things that athletes are doing today, and while you might hear or read about it if you look hard enough, it certainly takes only a fraction of the energy to find some unsavory news about Carmelo, or accusations of Desean Jackson being a showboat, and God knows what’s been written about Deion over the years.
One of the elder statesmen in the writing game, Michael Tillery, says it’s up to writers to change the narrative. In my opinion, if you have a passion to write, especially about sports and athletes, your passion should be to cover these athletes when they do positive works with just as much fervor as when they do something convenient enough to be written. If you are unable or unwilling to do so, shame on you, and shame on that pen you’re wielding, but if the desire to do more than the norm is within you, then do so, just as we want today’s athletes to do as well.
P.S. As a reminder, checkout the livest sports talk show around, "The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show" as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan! Download our podcasts if you missed the live show as well!