Edit Desk: Unprofessional athletes

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Micah Golomb-Leavitt

On Wednesday, Carolina Panthers quarterback and Pro-Bowl player Cam Newton might have lost the role model status he once strived for.

“It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes,” Newton said while chuckling to himself after a female reporter’s question.

Along with public backlash on Twitter and other social media platforms, sponsors like Dannon Yogurt Inc. announced it would revoke his sponsorship.

“It’s simply not OK to belittle anyone based on gender,” Michael Neuwirth, the senior director of external communications for Dannon, said in a statement. “We have shared our concerns with Cam and will no longer work with him.”

Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant had a similar incident when he replied to a tweet from a fan who cursed and insulted the Oklahoma City Thunder, his old team.

Athletes like Durant and Newton sometimes forget about the spotlight they’re constantly placed under.

Both players immediately gave public apologies, but somehow they didn’t feel sincere. It’s safe to assume their respective agents demanded they apologize to maintain their superstar images.

This wasn’t the first time Newton was obnoxious on camera. He has been insulting during previous interviews, apologizing after the fact.

After losing Super Bowl 50, Newton gave reporters the silent treatment during a post-game press conference. He received similar criticism for being unprofessional and childish.

Issuing apologies a few days after the fact doesn’t feel real. It jeopardizes the entire character of a professional athlete that the fans thought they knew so well.

So, what’s the actual problem we’re dealing with?

Sports stars like Newton and Durant are forced into new personas when they take the stage. During an interview or when speaking out on social media, they occasionally slip up. The entire nation hears about it within minutes.

The players are stuck living double lives — being a celebrity versus being a person.

While it’s a tall task, players should be better trained to answer questions from the media and more informed about what they can and can’t say on such a large stage.

Kids look up to these players. They hear things like, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes,” and they mimic that behavior.

Every player is somebody’s role model. Some of them need to learn how to act like it. 

You can’t just apologize and expect every problem to disappear.

It’s unfair to say athletes behave badly in the spotlight all the time. Players in all sports are standing up for their beliefs and using their platforms in the hopes of making significant social progress on issues that plague our country.

NBA all-stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul gave an anti-violence speech at the ESPY awards last year, expressing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

In the NFL, individual players and whole teams have kneeled during the national anthem since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose not to stand during the anthem at the start of last season. Kaepernick said he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

This is the type of impact players should strive to make — they shouldn’t be mocking reporters. It’s unprofessional, and it’s in their pay grade to monitor what they’re saying on camera. Professional athletes and celebrities should be responsible for acting like respectable people.

Athletes shouldn’t be able to get away with blatantly sexist, racist or offensive behavior in any way. The only way to hold players responsible is to better prepare them for fielding questions and representing themselves and their organizations.

Athletes are not children. It’s time they start proving it.

Micah Golomb-Leavitt, ’20, is an assistant lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at mzg220@lehigh.edu.

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