|ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Athletes have duties outside the game|
|Written by Tawni Ricketts, Daily Vidette Columnist|
|Tuesday, 17 April 2012 21:38|
Whether competing at theprofessional level, amateur level, or somewhere in between, athletes are seen ascelebrities and are idolized on local, national, and global scales.
As public figures, many believethat athletes have a responsibility to give back, and Icompletely agree.
Havingmedia and community eyes on them at all times puts them in an advantageousposition, providing them with the opportunity to make exponential impacts, aswell as encourage and motivate others to do the same.
In today’s day and age, arefreshing amount of athletes have not only recognized this moralresponsibility, but they have made the conscious decision to live by thisstandard.
In an interview with AccessAthletes, Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice said, “I think being a professionalathlete is a big part of your job, but if you’re just being a football playeryou’re not filling a total fulfillment. Giving back to the community is one of[those] things you can’t take for granted … being a community ambassador is … almostlike my calling and duty.”
Some athletes go as far as tocreate their own personal charity organizations. Albert Pujols, most famous forhis time spent in St. Louis with the Cardinals, formed the Pujols FamilyFoundation — an organization dedicated to helping families with children who livewith Down syndrome. The foundation also focuses on improving the standard ofliving for impoverished children by helping them with education and medicalrelief in Pujols’ homeland of the Dominican Republic.
But giving back isn’t just aphilosophy that individual athletes internalize; it’s something the sportingworld as a whole recognized as an important duty of their profession.
In 2006, ESPN aired itsinaugural season of “My Wish” — an annual, summertime, week-long television seriesfeatured on SportsCenter that chronicles stories about children withlife-threatening illnesses who have their sports dreams fulfilled and wishesgranted in conjunction with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Last summer in 2011, “My Wish”fulfilled such wishes as sending a Leukemia patient on a vacation to Hawaii tosurf with professional surfer and shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton. Theyalso fulfilled the dream of a young boy with a life-threatening blood disorderthat caused near paralysis to his left side, thus ending his dream of being aprofessional football player, by sending him to Orlando to spend time with hisidol Tim Tebow.
However, many athletes realize they don’t needto be a professional, making millions of dollars a year, to make an impact onsomeone’s life.
Alabama running back TrentRichardson recently took a 17-year-old girl, suffering from Leukemia, to herjunior prom, despite the time consuming job of being a collegiate athlete, apossible NFL draftee, and a student. Richardson told ESPN “I did it out of myown heart.”
Whether donating money, time, orsimply an autographed football to an impoverished boy, the amount of positiveimpact an athlete can make on the lives of others is endless. Being an idol anda role model comes with the job of being sport star, and as such, they need tolive up to those expectations.