Should NBA athletes be role models?

Armstrong Williams | 6/21/2013, 11:47 a.m.
Charles Barkley famously said, "I am not a role model," in a widespread ad campaign...
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Armstrong famously and constantly denied rumors about steroid use on his team after his initial wins, and went so far as to sue people who accused him of steroid use, and eventually lied under oath about his use of steroids. Greg LeMond, a three-time winner of the Tour de France who was licensed to TREK's bike line, accused Armstrong of steroids after his wins, and Armstrong fired back by using his corporate connections to rid LeMond of sponsorship. Yet while taking LeMond down and suing others, he was living a lie and held out for years on the truth.

After he confessed to Oprah Winfrey, Lance lost everything and will probably never get anything back. Had he been honest at the forefront for his transgressions like Woods, he might still be popular, but he thought he was safe in the new era and amid the standard we now have for athletes.

Barkley's ad broke fans and the industry into a new era because putting an athlete up on a pedestal as some great human being is a mistake and their skills should really be valued instead. The Internet allowed fans to see the darker side of athletes' personal lives and the industry simply moved where the market was. Andre Agassi's "Image is Everything" ad campaign simply wouldn't work in today's industry, because the athlete is a means to an end for our team's success, not a person who we strive to be.

If the athlete isn't a role model, then what should we look to them for? The main thing that made them successful that can help any individual, in any walk of life, is having a dedicated work ethic. Despite Armstrong being a liar and cheat, he did train himself back after being diagnosed with cancer to win the Tour de France. He got some help from steroids, but there was still a remarkable amount of grit and determination involved.

Barkley was right to a degree; an athlete might not be an upstanding individual, hence why they shouldn't be a role model, but they can be held up as a good example in many other ways. It's up to society to find the right ones.

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