Athletes as role models has been a topic of discussion for many years. The debate of whether athletes who are only famous because they know how to throw a ball or catch one is debated among those who believe that to worship such superficial individuals is to do our society harm (Kelley 2010). For years athletes themselves have denied the idea of being role models and have at times refused to live up to that expectation (Jones 2008). Some believe that holding regular individuals who are just playing a game and not having any real impact on a progressive society is to do harm to the people doing the worshipping. While others view this notion as being unfair to the athletes who literally just want to play a game because they are good at it, it cannot be denied that these individuals have a profound impact on the youth and although it is their job to play, it should also be their responsibility to live up to any expectations of good and role model-like behavior.
Sports is not only an activity of fun, it is an activity of distraction. For many children who participate in sports, it is a way for them to escape their reality. It is a way for them to do something that they view as being important in their lives, regardless of their surroundings and everything that could be occurring around them. It is this reason why athletes are seen as role models. These children could identify with them. They look up to them as being who they want to be and what they want to become. To not acknowledge this powerful force in sports, would be to ignore the whole aspect of money making in these activities. The field of sports makes money because of the people who become fans and off the people who view these athletic figures as God-like characters. It would be unfair on the athlete's part to assume no responsibility when it comes to providing role model-like behaviors for their fans and followers.
The issue of athletes being portrayed as role models puts an extra pressure on sports of all types. Sports have to be careful of what they portray as being appropriate behavior because they are constantly being monitored and judge for their portrayals. From wrestling to tennis, any sport that puts on a show for an audience needs to carefully choose its players, since they will be in the public eye representing their field (Biskup & Pfister 1999). Even if athletes do not mean to become role models and even if athletes to not want to become role models, the fact that they are out there being exposed to everyone and being worshipped by those who think they are great at sports, they unwillingly become those role models (Jones 2008). A role model does not necessarily have to be a public figure, but because sports are such public activities and because they make so much money whether it is from the events they hold to the marketing campaigns that their athletes join, theses athletes who join to play their favorite sport and make money, become those role models, whether they want to or not.
Sports producing role models in the athletes that partake in the given sport activity is an inevitable thing for the fans. How can a sports team, and a given athlete not expect to be viewed as a role model when there are tons of marketing devices such as jerseys, bobble head dolls, and even life-size cardboard cut outs of certain athletes? People end up buying these items, especially for children, because they see these athletes as possessing something that they wish they had, that they look up to attain and that they see as being a god-like quality (Biskup & Pfister 1999). The amount of worship, not to mention money, that is spent by the fans on specific athlete's paraphernalia cannot be looked upon blindly and athletes need to assume that people are buying these specific items because they value them as athletes and therefore they look up to them as people. Athletes not only need to expect to act in role model type of situations, but they need to expect it because that is what their fans expect of them (Jones 2008).