“I am not a role model. I am not paid to be a role model.”
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley pointedly spoke those words while looking directly into a camera for a Nike commercial in 1993.
I remember seeing that commercial as a 10-year-old kid, and the message was clear. Barkley goes on to say “I am paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”
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I agreed with him then, and I agree with him now.
The recent tragic events a few hours away in Charlotte, N.C. – the controversial police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott and the unrest in the Queen City’s streets thereafter – had me glued to the TV this past week as I, probably just like you, was trying to make sense of the situation.
As I flipped between 24-hour news channels to see different camera angles and analysis of the events occurring in the aftermath of the hotly-debated tragedy, I was at one point reminded of that famous Barkley commercial. Ironically, it centered around one of his buddies and former rivals on the basketball floor, Michael Jordan, now the owner of the Charlotte Hornets.
One pundit asked something to the effect of: “Where is Michael Jordan? Why hasn’t he come out and made a statement?”
After hearing this, I ask myself: “What in the world does this have to do with Michael Jordan?” Was it because a Hornets Fan Shop selling team memorabilia was looted? No. It was because, well, he’s Michael Jordan.
It was the second such time in a matter of months that I’ve heard the media call upon Jordan to address the shootings of African-Americans by police officers.
In July, he – as the media said, “finally” – addressed the issue and then proceeded to donate $2 million – 1 each to the the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. And then just a few days ago, he made a plea for peace, releasing a statement that read in part: “It is more important than ever that we restore calm and come together, as a community, in peaceful demonstration and conversation and in constructive and non-violent ways.”
It’s a great message, but it’s not much different than what others have been saying. So why was he essentially pressured into getting involved?
Maybe Air Jordan isn’t as comfortable playing role model as he was playing basketball. And that’s perfectly fine.
Besides, plenty other athletes have come out and made comments or – like Colin Kaepernick and now countless others – have taken stands (or knees, if you will).
It’s as simple as this: Athletes certainly can be role models. But they shouldn’t have to be one.
Look no further than Myrtle Beach’s very own Ramon Sessions, who donated $250,000 toward the construction of a new facility for the Boys & Girls Club of the Grand Strand. He didn’t have to do that and he wasn’t pressured by the media to do it; he simply wanted to help, therefore taking the job of “role model” on his shoulders.
That’s how a role model operates, whether it’s a parent, a grandparent, a church official, a teacher, a coach or even – yes – an athlete. And the list goes on.
However, not all of us are built the same way. Some of us want to keep to ourselves while others want to be out front and leading.
So let’s stop trying to force people into being role models. There’s plenty out there, and they easily can be recognized by either their words or their actions.
Let’s embrace them and let everyone else live their lives as they please.
Fresh off a heartbreaking setback in his attempt to win the FedExCup, Coastal Carolina alumnus Dustin Johnson will be back in the spotlight as part of the United States Ryder Cup team. The Americans will take on Team Europe on Friday through Sunday at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. … Major League Baseball is set for a wild finish as it enters the final week of the regular season. … The Coastal Carolina football team will again be at home as it hosts former Big South rival Charleston Southern, ranked 11th in the latest FCS Coaches Poll. … The Carolina Panthers (1-2) will look to bounce back from a home loss to Minnesota as they head to the Georgia Dome for an NFC South battle with the Atlanta Falcons (1 p.m., Fox). … No. 5 Clemson will be in the spotlight this week as it hosts red-hot No. 3 Louisville in Death Valley at 8 p.m. Saturday (ABC). South Carolina, meanwhile, will host No. 9 Texas A&M at 4 p.m. (SEC). … In high school football, two unbeatens in North Myrtle Beach at Myrtle Beach meet in their Region VII-4A opener at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium. … NASCAR’s Chase continues Sunday with the Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m., NBCSN). … The Coastal Carolina women’s golf team begins its fall portion of the schedule at the Golfweek Conference Challenge, which will be played Monday-Wednesday at Red Sky Golf Club in Vail, Colo. … The World Cup of Hockey final best-of-three series begins Tuesday (8 p.m., ESPN) as Team Europe takes on Team Canada. Game 2 is Thursday (8 p.m., ESPN2) and Game 3, if necessary, is slated for 7 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2).