Staff Editorial: The role-model pressure on young athletes

The Chimes staff addresses Marcus Smart’s three-game suspension by the NCAA.

Marcus Smart, a sophomore NCAA basketball player from Oklahoma State University, was put on a three-game suspension for pushing a fan during a game against Texas Tech University. The Chimes staff addresses the pressure that is put on young athletes to be role models. | www.okstate.com

Bruce Waterfield

Marcus Smart, a sophomore NCAA basketball player from Oklahoma State University, was put on a three-game suspension for pushing a fan during a game against Texas Tech University. The Chimes staff addresses the pressure that is put on young athletes to be role models. | www.okstate.com

Chimes Staff, Writer

During Oklahoma State University’s basketball game at Texas Tech University a few weeks ago, sophomore Marcus Smart fell into the stands in a last-second defensive play. As Smart was getting to his feet, Texas Tech fan Jeff Orr got in Smart’s face and began yelling at him. Smart proceeded to push the fan and was ultimately given a three-game suspension by the NCAA.

PRESSURE ON YOUNG ATHLETES 

Witnesses to the event say Smart insisted to his coach that Orr had thrown out a racial slur, potentially taking the story in a whole new direction.

Why is it that when a 50-year-old man at a basketball game yells a racial slur at a 19-year-old who is in the middle of a heated competition, we expect the player to act with more maturity and class?

Are we putting too much pressure on young athletes to be role models in all situations?

Regardless of the pressure placed upon young athletes, provocation does not give them the right to act unprofessionally. Orr’s conduct was out of line, but fighting fire with fire is not going to help.

The only thing Smart gained from his outburst was a suspension. Was his snap reaction worth his playing time? While he is hardly the first athlete to act without a thought to how his actions appear, this cannot be his excuse. He is old enough to know how to respond to bullies without vilifying himself in the process.

UNNECESSARY PRESSUE ON SMART 

In addition, Smart is a role model representing his sport, his school and himself. It is unlikely he chose to play college basketball for the sole purpose of being looked up to, but, as in the case of most sports, it comes with the territory. Thrust into the spotlight, these athletes know they will be judged — fairly or unfairly — by how they act on and off the court. 

If we call our collegiate athletes to a higher level of integrity, we must also call our alumni and fans to a higher standard as well. For example, if Orr had composed himself this might not be a topic of conversation. What Orr said to Smart was not in good taste, and it was something that should not go without consequence. Although Orr does not have as much to lose in this incident as Smart does, Orr still brought bad press to his alma mater, Texas Tech.

Competition can bring out the best and the worst in players and spectators alike. Although the way that Smart reacted was not wise, it is also not wise for alumni and fans of the sport to put so much pressure on someone who is still maturing. It may be okay, even beneficial, for players to be placed in the role model position. However, they should not have to live up to the expectations of alumni.

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