In 1993, NBA player Charles Barkley gained national attention when he wrote the text for his “I am not a role model” Nike commercial.
Throughout his career, Barkley had been arguing that athletes should not be considered role models. He called for parents and teachers to quit looking to him to “raise your kids” and instead be role models themselves.
He stated, “A million guys can dunk a basketball in jail; should they be role models?”
Barkley’s message sparked a great public debate about the nature of role models. The topic was discussed in schools, break rooms, churches, and playgrounds across America.
Regardless of which side of the argument you choose, there are some good points to consider from an issue that still causes debate some 20 years later.
As far as Barkley is concerned, the years may have proven him correct about personally being a role model, athlete or not.
He’s admitted to losing 10 million in gambling debts. In 2008, he was suspended as a TV analyst for alcohol abuse.
But this is not about Charles Barkley.
At Sports Almighty, we are about Christian athletes. By the way, Barkley is on record as saying Christians are ‘fake’ and ‘hypocrites.’ O.K., I said this was not about Barkley.
Current athletes such as Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, Colts QB Andrew Luck and Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, have embraced the fact they are role models and have accepted the responsibility, while athletes 20 years ago were running from it.
So why do some athletes view it as an opportunity, while others as a burden?
“First, God has given me the talent and opportunity to be an NFL player,” Wilson said in an interview with ESPN. “I have a responsibility to God, my teammates, the fans to be the best I can be. I know kids look up to us. I view it as an opportunity. A platform.”
Ohio State guard Aaron Craft may have spoken best. “We are Christians who happen to be athletes,” Craft said. “Not Christian athletes.”
If God calls a Christian to disciple, to be the light of the world, how can we buck that responsibility, athlete or not? The part of being an athlete creates the platform to further the responsibility of being a role model for God and having an impact for Christ. There is no circumstance where a Christian athlete can say, “I am not a role model.” The fact that you are a Christian holds the responsibility of being a light to an otherwise dark world.
When Sports Almighty is looking for an athlete to place on it’s website, the first thing we research is the relationship the athlete has with their parents. We’ve learned it’s so important in whether the athlete talks the talk and walks the walk.
Proverbs 1:8-9 says, ‘Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.’
Bengals QB Andy Dalton’s faith was developed at an early age by his father. The 78th Psalm ends with a tribute to King David: “He (led) them with the integrity of his heart and the skillfulness of his hands.”
It’s a passage Greg Dalton instilled in his son, long before Dalton threw his first touchdown pass at TCU.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, “I saw Christ in the relationship of my parents.”
Tim Tebow, Barrett Jones, and Mason Plumlee’s parents are all involved in missions.
But what if you are a Christian athlete and do not have parents who are believers, does that give you the option to refuse the instruction of your parents? No. Proverbs 1:8-9 does not state ”do not forsake your ‘Christian’ mother’s teaching.” The verse simply states ‘mother.’
And by no means does not having Christian parents affect your oppurtunity to be a great role model as a Christian athlete. But you have to honor Proverbs 1:8-9.
So was Charles Barkley right that parents should be a child’s role model? Yes. But does that mean an athlete has no responsibility to be a role model? No. Not at all.
By the way, when Barkley was running up gambling debts and drinking abusively, he was a parent himself.
Oh, thats right. I wasn’t going to make this about Barkley.