By Bill Nestor
Role Models play a major part in the development of young athletes. They are a motivator that provides a constant reminder of players that look up to them.
Youngsters emulate what they see on and off the court. As our society has changed, so have the attitudes of professional athletes. In a world that has moved to the “me first” philosophy, less pro athletes seem to care about what people think about them. Part of that attitude is the result of scrutiny that they are under from everyone, including the media, to the fans. It forces them to develop tough skin, becoming more callous with every verbal attack.
Social media has been a problem for professional athletes because of the accessibility it provides. Fans can track players from daylight to dark. Where they are going, what they are doing, even what they are eating, can be found out with the click of a button. Some athletes are more careful than others, while a handful of them don’t seem to care.
Recently, Memphis Grizzlies star guard Ja Morant was suspended by the NBA for 25 games, Morant was posing with a gun in an Instagram Live Video. Morant will not be paid during the suspension and he will have several hoops, not to shoot, but rather to jump through during his time away from the league. Thorant has issued an apology to everyone he can apologize to, but his sincerity has to be questioned.
This isn’t the first incident for the superstar. Morant was benched with an eight game suspension this past March when he was caught appearing to brandish a gun at a Denver nightclub. Everyone makes mistakes, but a repeat offense of this magnitude is hard to handle. Morant hasn’t broken any laws (that we know of yet) but he has broken the hearts of millions of little hoopsters that think the sun rises and sets with him.
Morant is arguably the second most popular player in the NBA behind Stephen Curry, but the league has to protect its image. It’s public perception that drives the bus and NBA commissioner Adam Silver wants to protect his players. Silver found himself between a rock and a hard place with Morant. He wants to teach him a lesson, but he wants it learned as quickly as possible so that he can get back to the hardwood. If the lesson isn’t learned, Morant could face stiffer penalties which would also affect the league.
This latest stunt moves Morant to the bottom of the role model barrel and teh worst part is that I don’t think he cares. The fact is that an extremely large number of athletes don’t feel an obligation. Couple that with a low maturity level and you have a bad outcome . With age comes maturity and unfortunately the majority of the top players in every major sport are young. Morant is only 23 years old. Curry is an exceptional role model and he is 35, so maybe wisdom does come with age.
Here is the good news about role models. You can be one yourself. Coaches and mentors are always needed. People take for granted teh influence they have over youngsters. Take the time to help a child learn a skill. Whether it’s shooting a ball, casting a line, or how to plant a garden. There have been so many people that have taken time for each of us in one way or another. It makes a difference and the impact it has might help someone grow.
Who knows, that someone could grow up to be the next Ja Morant.