Good ol' Charles Barkley has made plenty of boneheaded comments over the years, but when he defiantly stated in a Nike commercial in the early 1990s that he wasn't a role model, he was absolutely right on the money. He went on to say: "I am not paid to be a role model. I am paid to wreak havoc on a basketball court. Just because I can dunk a basketball does not mean I should raise your kids."
For all the good guys who do community service and reach out to today's youth, the likes of Cal Ripken Jr. and Warrick Dunn to name a couple, there seem to be twice as many poor examples, such as Adam Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, Michael Vick and Ron Artest. Making matters worse, it seems all we see and hear in the media are police blotter material, steroid use and professional athletes having children with a number of partners.
Parents, teachers, coaches and people closest to impressionable high school athletes have to be their role models. They mold the kids on a day-to-day basis. You would hope that professional athletes, making millions of dollars, would at least accept the responsibility of being mindful of what they do and say in the public eye, but that's often not the case.
As for being a role model? Listen to Chuck - no way. At best, they should be admired from a distance, and on the occasion they do provide an up-close, positive experience, those times should be cherished by kids and can be used in a productive, motivational manner.