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Should sport stars be our role models?

By Adam Pearse

I remember the first time I watched rugby league. It was a Warriors game, yonks ago now. Coming from a union household, I remember thinking as I saw these roided hunks of meat smash into each other, “what kind of person plays a game that’s all about big hits and seemingly no skill involved?” Obviously, since then I have come to appreciate the nuances of league but I seem to have only learned two things. This is our year, and the calibre of the people playing this game is so low, Flo Rida wrote a song about it.

If you’re lost and don’t know what the hell I’m ranting about, this piece comes off the back of multiple players being caught with cocaine, one of which was Kiwi’s captain, Jesse Bromwich. Now I could rattle off a whole list of examples when professional league players have decided to take a left turn and drive down dickhead avenue, bastard boulevard, or cunty corner (whatever side street metaphor suits you best) but to do that I’d need more time than I care to give to a sport that won’t give Manu Vatuvei a title.

Nevertheless, you’re not here to read about league, you’re here to read about the issue that sparks up every time some sports star goes off the deep end — their responsibility as role models. This is a question inherently tied to every profession that lives in the public eye and yet the debate rages on. Should it be a necessity for people such as sport stars to have a higher moral standard than the rest of us? Just as with any moral dilemma, we have two sides with fairly valid points on either.

First of all, sports stars are people just like everyone else, and because of this they fall victim to the similar lapse in judgement I encounter whenever I pass a Carls Jr. However, should their exorbitant pay checks and a career in the public eye demand a higher ethic code? For those of you that watch that train wreck of awkward banter and Paul Henry PTSD known as the AM Show, this was when Mark Richardson gave you the answer.

Formally, one of the best Blackcap test openers the game has seen with a forward defence as unforgiving as his hamstrings. Richardson has risen from sporting stardom and into hosting gigs on CGW and The Block before being the voice of the conservative 70 and above demographic on the AM Show. And it’s here where he has evolved from the fun and witty presenter, to the old, disenfranchised, grouchy white guy New Zealand media just can’t get enough of.

Anyway, the jist of Richardson’s point to those who shamed Bromwich and the like for setting a bad example was that it’s not sport stars’ responsibility to raise other people’s kids. He says that if you want your kid to have a good moral code, you give it to them rather than letting them learn from a league player exercising his right to be an absolute twat. Sounds pretty reasonable, doesn’t it? Sorry Mark but like your ability to execute a sweep shot, it’s not that easy.

Fact is, sport stars set an example. As much as you can encourage your child to be virtuous and all that crap, he or she will still look up to those on the field or on the court, with awe and respect. You’re lifestyle Mark, was one not only I, but thousands of kids across New Zealand saw as living the dream. You are idols. You are role models. Whether you like it or not, what you do will have a significant impact on children and if you behave like a grade A douchemonger, there is every chance that some kid will look up and think ‘hey, well if they’re doing it, why not’. And at the end of the day, you can act like an asshole all you like and hide behind your cloak of unaccountability, but when you face the truth and realise just how much influence you have, could you live with it? Perhaps I’m just thinking negatively, but I sure couldn’t.

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