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Sports Authority

Sant-Miller: Notice athletes doing good

| Sunday, November 2, 2014

We’re a negativist sports world, and it’s a problem.

O.K., fair enough, I’m a bit of an optimist, to the point that it can be annoying to some.

That being said, I think sports fans and the media tend to focus on the negative public actions of big-name athletes. I don’t have a problem with poor decisions getting attention and publicized. In many ways, by highlighting these mistakes, light can be shined on important societal issues that are often overlooked.

I think the problem is that there is no equality in publication where the positive actions of athletes are rarely heard.

Everyone has heard of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson domestic abuse cases. Most sports fans have also heard of Joseph Randle’s recent arrest for shoplifting cologne and underwear, though that may be more so for comedic reasons. Everyone has heard of the sexual assault allegations against Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger and the legal difficulties of Yasiel Puig. Sometimes, the cases are even more extreme: the murder chargers against Oscar Pistorius, for example. Even non-legal issues, like the Tiger Woods scandal, are discussed in great detail. We are inundated by the news of poor decisions from our popular athletes.

We are often told about the influence professional athletes can have as role models and how poorly they are handling such a powerful opportunity. In short, it is easy to fall victim to the assumption that professional athletes spend their free time in a reckless and dangerous fashion, often making immoral decisions.

With such a significant influence, athletes can do great things, act as great role models and inspire our society to be even better. When possible, they should embrace this opportunity. A lot of the time they actually do — we just don’t hear about it as often as we hear about their off-the-field woes.

How many sports fans have heard of the Cornerstone Foundation? It’s a foundation run by Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman that provides pediatric hospital patients with iPads, laptops and gaming systems to help children pass the time during their hospital stays. Oh, and Tillman also helped build a school in Cambodia.

How about Jason Witten’s SCORE Foundation? Witten’s foundation places fulltime male mentors in battered women’s shelters where these mentors can help demonstrate positive behavior to the children living in these shelters. Here, the focus is on breaking the cycle of violence that plagues victims of domestic abuse. In 2010, Witten started an initiative called “Coaching Boys into Men” through SCORE. The initiative trains high school coaches to help teach their players the dangers of dating violence and raise awareness about a less publicized violent issue in society.

Although widespread societal issues, such as domestic violence, should be given due attention, this attention should not all be negative. It is equally important to highlight the positive and wonderful actions of many professional athletes. It is the players who donate their time and their money to helping others who should be in the spotlight. These are the players we want America’s youth and society to hear about. These are the players we should recognize, as they live up to the lofty expectations we have for individuals in such powerful social positions.

Those are just two NFL anecdotes that I wanted to relay to you. I encourage you to take the time to read up on many of the other initiatives and foundations run by professional athletes. Read about the various sports camps run for disadvantaged youth or the generous fundraising campaigns. Explore some of the unique initiatives pushed forward by professional athletes and turn the spotlight to these players and their actions. I promise you, these good deeds are out there. Look for them, but be warned. The news coverage on them is much harder to find.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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