I remember the controversial Nike commercial from back in the day, where NBA star Charles Barkley looked into the camera and said, “I am not a role model. I am not paid to be a role model.”
That commercial sparked a heated debate about athletes and their actions, as seen through the eyes of children. Imagine if social media existed back then. What would we have seen of Barkley, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson? Would we have seen gambling? Womanizing? Or, would we have seen a tough-guy image?
Former Spurs all-star Dejounte Murray had a squeaky-clean image when he played for San Antonio. Within days of being traded, we were suddenly exposed to images of Dejounte at a strip club and stories featuring bricks of cash. Why would Dejounte do this? Who is he trying to impress?
They may not play the same sport, but I’m fascinated by a recent social media post by Miami Dolphins quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He surprised fans with a lengthy Facebook post where he called much of the NFL “fake gangstas.” Bridgewater is entering his eighth season in the league. He believes NFL players should do a better job of acting like role models – and that means dropping the “gangsta” or “hood” image.
“Tired of seeing football players portray this tough guy image or pretend he’s gangsta. You went to school, attended those classes, and some even got their college degree. Now you might have 1.5% of professional football players that’s on that but the remaining 98.5% are only ‘football tough,’” Bridgewater wrote.
Bridgewater graduated from Louisville in 2013 with a degree in Sports Administration. Dallas Cowboys star Micah Parson applauded Teddy’s Facebook post, along with NFL stars Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs and DeSean Jackson. Bridgewater went on to say that athletes should keep a tight inner circle, and that you don’t need to be gangsta to be successful in sports.
“Kids don’t be fooled. You can play ball, do the right thing and they still gonna accept you. Look at me, I’m far from perfect but I chose the ball route, but I still can go to the same hood and post up and it’s all love. I still keep the same 3 dudes around me. My people accept me for making all the right decisions and not falling victim or being tricked by the false images you see on IG from a lot of ball players.”
I’m glad Teddy Bridgewater took a stand on this issue. Like it or not, professional athletes *are role models. Kids look up to them; want to mimic them. This is nothing new. This was also the case when Barkley was in his prime in the 90’s.
What do you think? Are professional athletes role models? Reach out to Michael on Twitter @MikeESPNSA. You can also listen to Michael on “Halftime” weekdays from Noon to 2 p.m.