Kids deserve better from pro athletes

Friday, March 27, 2015

Murders. Domestic violence. Performance-enhancing drugs.

With negative stories such as these dominating the national news, who are kids supposed to look up to as role models in the sports community?

One of my first sports memories growing up was the summer of 1998 when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire went back and forth in a chase to break Roger Maris' record of 61 home runs. In the end, both players surpassed the mark, with McGwire ending the year with 70 and Sosa at 66. On Jan. 10, 2010, however, McGwire admitted in an interview with Bob Costas that he used steroids throughout his career, including the 1998 season. This made me wish the summer of 1998 had never happened. While Sosa has always denied steroid use, it is widely believed he took them as well.

In July 2003, Los Angeles Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant was arrested in connection with an investigation of a sexual assault complaint, which was filed by a 19-year-old hotel employee in Eagle, Colo. Bryant admitted to an adulterous sexual encounter, but denied the assault allegation. The case was dropped after Bryant's accuser refused to testify, but a separate civil suit was filed later and that was settled out of court. Bryant publicly apologized to the woman, but never admitted any guilt on his part.

On Feb. 15, 2014, popular Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested and charged with assault after a physical altercation in an elevator with his wife at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. The six-year veteran running back was suspended for the 2014 season and is currently looking for a team.

Many in St. Louis forgave McGwire for his actions, as he became the Cardinals' hitting coach in 2010, and on opening day received a standing ovation from St. Louis fans. As for Bryant, 55 percent of respondents to an ESPN survey weeks after the allegation said their first impulse was to believe Bryant was innocent. Thirty-three percent of the respondents said the charges had only "somewhat" tarnished their view of Bryant.

Everyone deserves a second chance, but what these athletes have done in the past can't be forgotten-- and it won't be forgotten. Despite the apologies the athletes make, their youngest and biggest supporters will never be able to go back in time to buy someone else's jersey, wait in line for someone else's autograph or get a different poster. The word professional comes in front of athlete for a reason. It is too bad athletes can't act that way.

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