From cycling to basketball to running, sports as a whole have had an alarming number of scandals recently. Double-amputee and Olympian sprinter, Oscar Pistorius, has been charged with the shocking murder of his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day this year. Another runner and Olympian, Suzy Favor Hamilton admitted in December to working as a call girl in Las Vegas for a high-paying escort agency. In the NBA, Lakers forward Metta World Peace was suspended a game for grabbing an opposing player by the neck and punching him in the jaw. Ironically, this will be Metta World Peace’s 14th career suspension (Ron Artest was his former name, which he probably should’ve stuck with). And of course there’s Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who was convicted of drug doping after years of his claims to the contrary.
Part of the problem with these and other athletes acting as if they are above the law is that we, the fans, treat them as if they are.
The recent scandals are sad reminders of an often forgotten fact — athletes are humans too. Fans should realize that athletes are fallible like all humans. We all sin.
But athletes should also realize how much their athletic status means and how their actions influence such a broad audience.
Fans shouldn’t view athletes as larger-than-life idols, but maybe athletes should view their responsibilities as larger-than-life. They are key leaders in today’s society and constantly in the spotlight, so what they say and do matters.
Understandably, these incidents are frustrating to fans, who want their sports teams and athletes to perform and behave well. However, sin’s reality is not separate from anything, even sports. It’s easy to view athletes as above sinning. Just because they can run faster, throw farther and jump higher, we fans seem to think of athletes as unbelievable people, forgetting they are humans too and should be treated as such.
Legendary coach John Wooden, who won 10 NCAA college basketball championships as head coach of UCLA, spoke of the relationship between character and sports. “Sports do not build character — they reveal it,” he said.
Wooden understood that while sports can build good character qualities like responsibility and a hard work ethic, athletes aren’t immune to sin and must have their own personal convictions outside of sports.
While training for a sport is tough, the reality is that athletes are viewed as leaders. This responsibility can be even more difficult than playing a sport, but it should be taken seriously. From intramural to intercollegiate to Olympian, athletes should recognize the affects their speech and actions have on others and should work to be above reproach.