Where Have All the Sports Heroes Gone?

Since Michael Jordan, there have been few sports celebrities to reach icon status. What gives?

Getty Images
Getty Images

What we presently have is a plethora of walking and breathing companies that refuse to come down on the side of any issue, just like a Fortune 500 company that contributes to both political parties, no matter the outcome.

But we also have a generation of athletes devoid of personality, which makes it even worse. I wonder how so many sports stars can live with themselves and consistently ignore the issues of today. Let’s do a moral inventory of the problems that have affected, and continue to affect, us globally.

There are still tremendous problems in Haiti. And while Alonzo Mourning has done a wonderful job with his efforts, he seems to be alone. AIDS continues to run rampant in America and Africa. The high school drop-out rate among African Americans is atrocious, poverty is at an all-time high and the mass incarceration of black men is epidemic. The modern athlete represents the worst of the United States today: widespread selfishness and a distressing philosophy of corporate self-indulgence. Obviously, greed has changed the games we love to watch and play.

As March Madness makes its way into our living rooms, I can’t help wondering what will happen to these young men and women after they leave the confines and comfort of college sports. And while it’s great to talk about how the NCAA should work to improve graduation rates and how student athletes should get paid, the reality is that college athletics affords these kids, black and white, an opportunity that most of us will never see, which makes me wonder if they, too, will elect to forgo the opportunity to be agents of change.

Unfortunately, I should be just as embarrassed. Because I have to ask myself what I’m doing to help change the problems that infect our communities. Maybe, just like me, athletes have become overwhelmed with the horrors that our people face.

I’m sure that the athletes and parents who paved the way for us all aren’t happy about the situation. At some point, we have to stop being scared and get in the fight. It’s the only way that heroes and icons are created. They gave us the blueprint. Don’t you think we need to follow it?

Zack Burgess is a contributor to The Root.

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