‘I Am Not A Role Model’

By Wesley Chism Jr.
Updated: December 23, 2008

SEATTLE — “I am not a role model,” stated NBA All-Star, Charles Barkley in a 1993 Nike television commercial. It was the quote that was repeated around the world.

It initiated several conversations and even outrage many who believe that these professional athletes have a responsibility to the young people that watch them play.

I said it then and I will repeat it now. If Charles Barkley lives to be 110 years old, nothing he could ever say would be as profound or prophetic as that statement.

I agreed with him then and even more so now. Why should someone with an over grown pituitary gland, that can dunk a basketball or throw a 98 mph fastball be held up in such high esteem?

Much ado was made over Plaxico Burress accidentally shooting himself in thigh. Reports were made that he was initially turned away from the night club because they knew he was carrying a weapon.

Then for whatever reason, they waived him inside anyway and began serving him with as many drinks as he could afford. Now I ask you, who’s the criminal?

Come on now!

Terrell Owens, one of the most productive players in the NFL, is just a few sandwiches short of a picnic basket. After breaking into the league with the San Francisco 49ers in 1996, he has made just as much noise on the field as off.

I can still remember sitting with my father watching the evening news when Dexter Manley, of the Washington Redskins, came on screen sitting before the Senate Committee, squirming like a worm on a hook, when he announced to the world that he was illiterate and the stuggles that he was having since his retirement.

It took my breath away and I had never felt that way again until the tragic end of former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett’s football career.

Do you remember when Deion Sanders came on the scene? There he stood on the cover of Sports Illustrated with his gold rope chain around his neck, a ring on ever other finger and enough curl activator on his head that would even make Michael Jackson jealous.

I don’t think that there has been another athlete in professional sports, other than Muhammad Ali, that did better at marketing themselves than “Neon” Deion Sanders.

Critics can say what they want about him but if he hadn’t done some of those things many of you wouldn’t know who I was talking about today.

Sadly, his talent is often the last thing that people remember. Deion Sanders was a legitimate two sport all-star and second only (in my opinion) to Bo Jackson.

What I’ve come to learn over the years is that many of these athletes are as fragile as pouched eggs on dry toast. There are happy one minute and upset the next.

Yet at the same time there’s a part of this insanity that is so close to being genius that it’s a little un-settling. So much of what you see and read about these athletes is a lot of hype.

The truth of the matter is that it isn’t “our youth” that are in need of a role model, it’s many of these “at risk” professional athletes whose lives are spiraling out of control in high definition.

I am not a role model, but I aspire to be.