Don’t glorify athletes who use their influence irresponsibly


Athletes should be held accountable for their irresponsible actions just like everyone else.

William Tan, Editor-In-Chief

If you’re a fan of the NBA, you probably know of superstar Ja Morant. For those who aren’t as familiar, he is a 23 year-old basketball player for the Memphis Grizzlies who rocketed — quite literally — to fame for his acrobatic layups, electrifying dunks and brazen style of play. 

Recently, irresponsible acts have put the franchise player’s legacy in hot water. To over 9 million followers on Instagram, Mr. Morant went live on March 4 in a Colorado strip club and waved around a firearm. This followed other incidents, including one where Morant allegedly trained the laser sight of a gun at a rival team’s bus and another where he allegedly punched a teenage boy in the head during a pickup game.

The Grizzlies player was suspended for eight games by the NBA and is now receiving counseling, but until laws have been deemed broken, it hasn’t been confirmed he will be punished or fined further. Regardless, Ja Morant is only the most recent instance in the athletic world of next-generation, professional athletes impressing harmful actions and ideologies on their audiences, often through social media.

Just as we celebrate star athletes for their immense physical aptitude, we should hold them to the same high standards for their mistakes. Public figures like Ja Morant should not get a pass for their irresponsible actions off the court, no matter how valuable or talented of an athlete they are.

Kaiser Health conducted a national survey of adolescents 10 to 17, which showed sizable percentages learn from athletes that it’s acceptable to do poorly in school, to disregard the consequences of sex and to engage in alcohol and drug use. Professional athletes do more than just play a sport — they’re role models and teachers for the next generation, and we need to hold them accountable when they stray from that path.

Even though some argue Mr. Morant’s actions are his own personal business to address, his decision to air those choices online to a young NBA fanbase isn’t his business anymore — it’s now everyone’s business, and that’s a big issue. A column in the New York Times pointed out that Mr. Morant’s platform, which condones violence, green-lights adolescents to believe it can be acceptable to simultaneously be famous and maintain hardened toughness and brash bravado. In communities that already struggle with high levels of violence and poverty, athletics are often pivotal in changing these harmful narratives.

So let’s remember that being an athlete doesn’t excuse yourself from abiding by the same principles as everyone else. While I’m guilty of marveling at Ja Morant’s dunk highlights, I think it’s time to stop putting him on a pedestal. I think we all should.