As sporting scandals continue to break with monotonous regularity, there’s a big question that needs to be asked.
Are our sportsmen still role models?
After all the performance-enhancing drugs, the sexual assault charges, the domestic violence allegations? After the booze, the group sex, the gambling addictions, the cheating-with-your-team-mate’s-wife, the crack habits, the match-fixing, the bubbling? After the sexting, the Stilnox, the racial slurs, the sex-tapes, the elephant-shooting and the nightclub brawls?
Well, are they?
Every time a sportsman does something, well, gross, we’re cautioned against considering them role models. Or examples. Or heroes.
Every time a fresh scandal breaks – with tedious regularity – commentators say, ‘Don’t put that pressure on our sports stars. They’re just here to entertain you. They just want to have fun. These are just young men doing what young men do.’
And yet. And yet… If sportspeople are not role models, why were two of them speaking at my child’s primary school yesterday?
If sportspeople are not role models, why are they selling us everything from breakfast cereal to yoga pants?
If sportspeople are not role models, why do they appear as spokespeople in PSAs for causes from mental health to adult literacy?
If sportspeople are not role models, why do football clubs routinely partner with charities and big business?
OF COURSE sports people are role models. Of course they are. To argue otherwise, in Australian culture, is a nonsense.
Whether they are good role models, of course, is a different question.
READ MORE: How sport made me and my kid more resilient.
This week, a major NRL club, the Gold Coast Titans, is fighting for its survival with several of its members under investigation for supplying cocaine. Not taking cocaine, but supplying it.
This week, the untouchable cricketing hero Glenn McGrath, got some of the only bad press of his life when photographs surfaced of him proudly sitting next to a large, endangered elephant. He had shot it dead with a rifle.
Last week, AFL player Stephen Milne was being discussed as a new addition to St Kilda Football Club, a team that is currently reeling from an ongoing investigation into the use of performance enhancing drugs. Last year, Milne plead guilty to the indecent assault of a teenager.
From the outside, looking in, the sporting world looks like a very forgiving place. Lawyers materialise if you are accused of beating your girlfriend, brawling with a bouncer, having pills in your pockets. Lawyers that, presumably, would be beyond your reach if you were a brickie.
And if the lawyers get you off, there will be a job for you. A high-paying, glamorous job. If they don’t, you will do some penance overseas, perhaps, and then another high-paying job will beckon.