GRIZ GRIT: Athletes as Role Models – Good, Bad…and Fair?

By MICK HOLIEN for the Flathead Beacon

There is little doubt that varying descriptions surface whenever an alleged drunken situation occurs.  Witnesses to such transgressions have their own interpretations about what they observed, and whenever emotions are involved, it’s often proven that witnesses can drastically, yet honestly, disagree.

I have no idea what occurred at a Missoula apartment complex some three hours after a charter plane transported the Grizzly football team home from an emotional victory in Flagstaff and, like most, I’ll let the situation make its way through the judicial system before rendering judgment.

But there are underlying issues that come to the forefront whenever athletes make the front page instead of the sports page.

There’s little doubt that the chances of something questionable occurring substantially increases in the late-night or early-morning hours.  I made the comment when the plane landed in Missoula at about 11:15 p.m. that while it was good to be back so quickly after a game, I was far more comfortable arriving in the wee morning hours for just that reason.

I’ve done my share of putting myself in bad situations and surely exercised poor and usually indefensible judgment.  And there’s little doubt this is the case with Gerald Kemp and Trumaine Johnson, who were at a loud party that led to a complaint.

Because of social media, chat sites and the like, predictably a myriad of inaccurate and questionable diatribe and vitriol has surfaced.  Certainly everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, and obviously I have mine, but it has little to do with the circumstances of Oct. 23.

Athletes, of course, are not the only ones who receive scholarship money to help with their education, but they are usually the only ones who receive such prolonged notoriety because of alleged misdemeanor misdeeds.

Coaching staffs and administrators can’t, and don’t, expect to control an athlete’s behavior, although there are team and institution rules that are levied when there are violations.  Alleged misconduct is a matter of personal responsibility and is not a reflection, except in drastic situations, of recruiting policy or administration leadership.

While one hopes there will not be violations of student conduct, it is bound to occur sometimes, as it does throughout any student body.  And like any student, an athlete is entitled to–and the school is legally bound by–a right to privacy.

In my opinion, society seems quick to hold up athletes as role models for young people, but to do so is a parental and personal decision.  Athletes, like all people, are flawed.

But I wish the countless hours that students spend doing the right thing would receive an equal amount of publicity in the front pages.  There are plenty of these positive stories but, if they get covered at all, these stories are usually mired on the inside sports pages.  Water-cooler chatter seems to revolve around the negative item of the day rather than the optimistic or positive.

Whether one agrees, it’s long been said there is no such thing as bad publicity.  Oscar Wilde said the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

One can take that for what it’s worth, but as Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying before he became president:  This too shall pass.

What are your thoughts on athletes as role models?

We’d love to hear from you. Are athletes role models? Is it fair to expect them to be?

Like this GRIZ GRIT Blog by Voice of the Griz Mick Holien?  Check out his Griz Grit Archive.


Now in his 27th year of broadcasting University of Montana football or basketball games, award winning journalist Mick Holien has a unique and insightful perspective on collegiate athletics.