Let’s Have Some Role Models

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Is anyone else nauseated over the news reports coming out of the NFL lately?

To start out with, I know there must be plenty of upstanding guys in the NFL who aren’t currently making the news, just because they are behaving themselves, doing things right, not acting out in inappropriate and shocking ways. They are living life, playing football, and loving their families. I understand that the relative few who make the news for their bad behavior are not true indicators of the whole.

As for the rest of them, I’m disgusted. These are supposedly grown men, acting out like overgrown two-year-olds. (Although I don’t know if that’s hardly a fair assessment of two-year-olds; after all, when my kids were two, they never did drugs, beat up on women, or abused other children.)

I can’t help but wonder if in idolizing these individuals, paying them absurdly ridiculous salaries, and allowing them to think they are special beyond the other millions of athletes in this world we have created a monster.

I’m a recent fan of football, as of about a year ago. I photographed our small-town, junior-high team last fall and became hooked on the game. The coaches that year were excellent in advocating teamwork, loyalty to your teammates, and inclusion of every level of talent on the team. They talked about the value of education and of perseverance and of respect to those around you. They talked about giving it your best and about never quitting. They were imparting life lessons of manhood to these young boys in a format that the kids could readily hear and understand.

I can’t believe that the game of football itself is responsible for encouraging child abuse, domestic abuse, and drug abuse.

It’s time we stepped in as fans and as supporters and said to the law-breaking, misbehaving NFL players: No more. We will not tolerate this kind of behavior from you who are in a prime position to be role models. We will no longer cheer for you, support your number, or think you are in any way special when you are caught using drugs, beating your significant other, or abusing your child. We appreciate your ability to play football and understand the time and training you have invested in building your natural abilities, but that no longer grants you a pass on how you treat others or in your disregard for the rules of the sport. Giving a woman a black eye is not a joke. Taking a performance boosting drug is cheating. Using your larger size to take advantage of a child makes you a bully. Acting out in arrogance shows a lack of appreciation for your team. That makes you a wife-beater, drug-user, cheater, child abuser, terrible role model, and poor teammate. It looks like a time out may be exactly what you need to ponder what it is about the game – and the team whose jersey you wear – that makes you worthy to play. The behavior we have seen from you lately, isn’t it.

God gives talent to each person and being able to see that talent in use is a powerful testament of his image reflected in mankind. When using that talent to cure cancer, bring relief to AIDS victims, pilot a space shuttle, tutor a student in algebra, mentor a struggling teen, or throw a football farther than most other humans are capable, the recipient of the gift can choose to either bless and benefit those around him, or he can abuse the gift and bring pain to others.

Perhaps the NFL players who are making the news these days need to know that until they reassess their gifts and begin using them for the overall good of mankind, we are done supporting them. Perhaps they need a dose of common reality, taking a minimum-wage job, being a “nobody” on the street, and going directly to jail without passing go, just like any other citizen would when they misbehave. Perhaps they need to lose their million dollar contracts and their VIP status and the rush of being in the spotlight. Perhaps they need to be removed from ever playing a professional sport again, because when a drunk driver takes a life, he may lose his license. When one person murders another with a gun, she may lose the privilege of owning a firearm. When a teacher is found molesting a student, his teaching credentials are revoked.

It may sound harsh and lacking in grace, but it’s time these guys understand we are sick and tired of their behavior. I understand mistakes. I understand being caught out occasionally in a social faux pas, like forgetting to tip your waiter or flipping someone off in traffic or neglecting to return a library book on time. I also understand a sense of entitlement that says the rules no longer apply to me; I have become too big to touch; I am special and my needs, feelings, and comfort are of far higher priority than the needs, feelings, and comfort of those around me.

Enough is enough. I’m ready for the NFL to step up and fill their ranks with top athletes who have self-control, self-respect, large amounts of teamwork, and a touch of humility. I’m ready for the football players to have more love of the game and less love of self. Then football will be something worth watching, something worthy of being called our national sport, with a field full of role models worth our kids emulating.

 

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