Do we ask too much to always demand unquestionable behaviour from top sports performers; they are all humans after all, or is it totally unacceptable in any situation for them to behave in anything but an impeccable manner? The idea that professional athletes should set proper examples for children has widespread support. Condemnation of individual behaviour – whether on the field of play or in sports stars’ private lives – is now the defining staple of media and political discourse on sporting celebrity.
In 1998, the European Fair Play movement adopted a declaration that athletes ‘should recognise the role they can play among the fan community in coaching, in education and in social events…. Clubs and athletes depend upon local communities for support and services. This means they also have important local public duties and responsibilities, beyond the simple staging of sports events’.
The idea of the sporting role model has had a broader effect on sport. Sport is no longer seen simply as a sphere of competitive contestation, but as a kind of self esteem-boosting therapy session. No longer there just to win, professional athletes like Roy Keane are now charged with maintaining the moral standards of the nation’s youth. The new sports role model is not simply a means of disciplining troublemaker sports personalities like Keane, but is representative of a turn in social thought and practice that not only overestimates social problems but also individualises and moralises them. Many people attempt to emulate their behaviour and this is why they should behave in an impeccable manner.
Players that show undesirable aspects of the game such as violence, bad sportsmanship or a lazy attitude can create an image for the recipient that, that kind of behaviour is acceptable. When playing at high level, crowds can have good and bad influences on a performer. If the crowd has a good atmosphere and gets behind the team then performers can be motivated by this and raise their playing standards. If members of the crowd direct abuse at the athletes they may become more involved with the crowd rather than the game.
Sports performers are always in the public eye so they cannot be expected to lose their temper in a big pressurised match and do something they regret and that is setting a bad example. Many of them come out after and say the regret what they did and that it was wrong. They are under constant pressure to behave ethically both on and off the playing field to set a good example to all. The pressure comes form the fact that they need to perform at the highest to get picked for their country. They also have pressure from other areas as they will lose sponsorship if they perform badly and this is large part of many athletes income. All this pressure can have a bad effect in many sporting situations. They have a much stronger need to win and perform due to all these factors and this can sometimes lead to bad behaviour or reacting to a situation badly due to over arousal.
The demand from the spectators in match can also lead to high arousal and so bad behaviour can be caused. An example was this weekend in the Leicester vs. Aston Villa match last weekend. Leicester were 5-0 down at home when a home support come on the pitch to vent his frustration. Ian walker the Leicester goal keeper reacted badly and struck him to the ground in frustration. He later came out and regretted what he did but it was just the pressure of the moment that got to him. This is why we cannot expect them to behave impeccable in all situations because of the immense pressure that they are constantly under and the fact they are always in the eye of the media and they catch anything that they do wrong. Occasionally the behaviour does not meet the standards of acceptance, in most cases the pressure of the moment has got to the performer but in some other cases it’s the performers lack of judgement and this can be very unacceptable.