I love sports-always have and always will. But here are a few, brief thoughts regarding the recent NFL ethical “scandals”.
Over the past month, the NFL has faced a number of scandals involving abuse. And as I’ve listened to the endless volley of opinion responding to these scandals, there is an unspoken assumption I find puzzling; namely, that the NFL has to punish athletes severely because they set an example for the rest of society.
And so without commenting on what did or didn’t happen in the cases involving Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and what their punishment should or shouldn’t be, I’d just like to point out the absurdity of the notion that the NFL should be setting an ethical example for the rest of society. Really? The NFL (or NBA, MLB, etc, etc, etc) is where we look to learn what it means to live the good life? NFL players have some added responsibility to serve as role models?
Why? Because they’re public figures? Because kids look up to them?
I’ve come to the conclusion that we would be far better off if we quit insisting that athletes be great role models (and then whining and complaining when they’re not) and start teaching our children and ourselves that athletes aren’t role models by virtue of being athletes. In a sense, the moral failings of athletes are not near as big a problem as our comically misplaced adoration of them (or any “famous” figure for that matter). But it seems we’d rather just keep insisting that they get their act together so we can continue unabated with our “hero-worship” instead of calling our hero-worship into question.
On a related note, one can’t help but notice the NFL seems to embrace this notion that its athletes must be good role models because it reinforces its narrative of self-importance, it’s propaganda—“Our players have to be good role models because everyone looks to them for guidance and moral vision.”
I’m not disagreeing that this is the case. I just think it’s pathetic that it is the case…especially for Christians, because we know better.