Professional athletes are some of the most followed people on social media, garnering the attention of hundreds of millions of followers, many of whom are young children who dream about being just like them when they grow up. Without a doubt, pro athletes hold an immense amount of influence. While this applies to any kind of celebrity, athletes differ in that they are representatives for their team, league, and sport. When an athlete acts in a way that is criticized by the public, it can reflect poorly on the organizations affiliated with them. Athletes have greater responsibility for their actions than other people because they are capable of tarnishing the reputations of others by association.
Last month, Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant was in the news for flashing a gun on Instagram Live. As of now, he has 9.4 million followers on Instagram. This came after Morant was involved in several other alleged altercations, including allegedly punching a teenager at Morant’s own home. Although the National Basketball Association did launch an investigation into the situation, they found no reason to charge Morant criminally and neither did the local police. Despite the evidence for criminal activity being insufficient, Morant was suspended for eight games without pay due to “conduct detrimental to the league” showing the impact of his actions.
While the weight of an athlete’s actions become significantly heavier as they acquire a larger audience in their respective sport, the responsibility that comes with being an athlete extends to all levels of play.
At Berkeley High School, athletes represent not only their team, but BHS as well. Tyler Kim, a junior and member of the crew team, is aware of the way his image affects both his team and school. “I feel like a lot of people associate me with rowing,” said Kim. “I definitely hold myself to a different standard than if I was not representing a school team.”
Chai Dewi, a junior volleyball player, is more conscious of how she acts as a person and less about the team’s image. “Obviously I’m not gonna just go around trashing the school and being a horrible person, but it’s not solely because I’m on the volleyball team, it’s because I don’t want to leave that image of myself,” she said.
For students who hold leadership positions on a team, the pressure to represent BHS positively can be even greater.
“As a senior and someone who does play a huge leadership role, I think it is important that I’m not only setting expectations during the actual sport, but also off the sport,” said senior Skyler Rockmael, a coxswain on the BHS crew team.
“The more you’re representing Berkeley High, the more responsibility you have,” she said.