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The news recently has been filled with the ever more sordid details of the private life of Tiger Woods.  Every day seems to drag more and more unsavory details out into the light of day.  And, while some in the media and around the various blogs and message boards seem to revel in seeing someone who climbed so high take such a hard fall, I don’t.

Frankly, I find it exasperating.

As I’ve read the stories I have found myself thinking back to an incident in 1993 when Charles Barkley, then playing for the Phoenix Suns, made the statement: “I am not paid to be a role model.  I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court.”  The storm of controversy around that statement was incredible at the time.  But, here’s the thing.  He chose to go into a highly public and visible profession.  He chose to accept the multi-million dollar contracts.  He chose to have his name and likeness on everything from replica jerseys to posters.  By making that choice, whether it is what he wanted or not, he became a role model.

The problem is that the men and women that are in positions of influence have forgotten that this is the case.  And, that applies whether you’re talking about Plaxico Burress shooting himself with an illegally carried handgun, Winona Ryder shoplifting at Macy’s, or South Carolina governor Mark Sanford claiming he was walking the Appalachian Trail while taking a private plane to visit his Brazilian mistress.

Or, of course, Tiger Woods having enough marital indiscretions to constitute a harem.

The news these days is full of scandal and controversy from athletes, actors, and politicians who seem to think their wealth and power allows them to do as they please with no consequence.  This would be infuriating all by itself.  But, when you consider that these are the people who our children see in the positions and vocations they aspire to.  When they see athletes lying about their steroid use or actors going on drunken, bigoted tirades or politicians hiding money in freezers what does that say to them?

I have news for all of them.  When you choose to be a public figure you choose to be a role model.  That comes with the position, prestige, and power.  There may not be a “role model clause” in that multi-million dollar contract, but when you sign on that line you take that responsibility.  If you don’t want to be a role model, then stay out of the limelight.

You don’t get all the perks with none of the responsibilities.  Life doesn’t work that way.  Not even for the rich and famous.

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One Comment

  1. Amen to that brother. There is a reason that in my household the news is rarely on. That reason is that the corruption of the world is what sells the news. There are a few other positions in life that tends to forget they are role-models. In recent years news has been filled with Teachers falling from grace, whether is is suggesting a “buy grade points fundraiser” or having sex with students. I think the biggest role-model based, unpaid, profession is that of being a parent. There is no greater influence on a child’s mind than their parent. To often I see/hear parents, including myself from time to time (after all I am completely fallible), speaking about the actions of people like Tiger or Barkley and how they influence their kids, to turn around an spout off a line of hatred about a group of people or an idea. In this world, everything influences everything.


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