Recently, several local high school students were disciplined for posting pictures of alcoholic beverages on the Twitter.
What they did, and whether or not it was illegal, is not the point of this article.
The point is how they behaved in public as athletes, as representatives of a particular school, and frankly as representatives of their families. The school held them responsible and they were disciplined.
At issue was the fact that they were bragging about something they knew was wrong. Posing as rebels without a cause and flaunting illegal behavior was of course the allure. Hoisting an ice cream soda really doesn't present the same effect. Whining about it after the fact and claiming that personal rights were violated was remarkably immature. After all, they publicized the incident.
The concept they would have us believe is that student athletes are entitled to dual standards of integrity.
When you are given the honor to represent your high school or university as an athlete, you accept certain athletic values and standards. You accept a role model status and serve as a personal example of integrity.
Integrity is defined as your values in action. There is an inherent obligation to represent the specific culture of the team, school, or organization of which you are a member. In professional sports that culture can change from team to team; it’s part of the entertainment profession.
Certain teams are permitted to wear long hair and have beards and tattoos, while other professional team cultures do not permit these. In the steroid era some teams turned a blind eye to the use of performance-enhancing drugs while others did not. But clearly everyone is aware of the cultural standards in which they participate.
In either case, professional or amateur, you make the decision in a formal contract or voluntarily agree to abide by the culture of that organization. It is not unusual to have a legal clause in a professional contract that dictates adherence to stated public morals. In an amateur situation the contract may not be a legal and binding one, but it is actually even more pressing as a volunteer compliance. The reason for that is volunteer organizations are not in it for profit, they are in it to represent a community.
Athletes relish publicity in the media when they perform well. Along with that the media is equally charged with reporting all types of athletic behavior and performance; good or bad, like it or not. When you become a public figure you cannot choose as to the time or the place that you are "in public eye." It is all the time.
Let's for a moment forget about the amazing naiveté of this generation's obsessive need to publicize everything from what they had for breakfast to their most bizarre fantasy. If you put it out there in the Internet world you cannot cry about the results or people's interpretation. It is similar to an artist that paints an abstract painting. He cannot complain about what the public's interpretation that painting is; it is what the viewer says it is! That is the gamble that all people accept when they display their talents in public.
The bottom line here is extremely simple. No one forces you to become part of an organization. If you do not like the cultural standards of that organization or club it's simple - don't join. If you do, you must accept the responsibility and leadership position of that organization, be it the marching band, the theater, or the athletic programs. It’s an adult thing. Athletes that represent a school program should accept the position of positive role model in the performance of all their daily activities, on or off the field.
Standards of integrity, athletic values, cannot be flipped on and off like a light switch. Athletes cannot have one set of values from 7:30 in the morning until they leave the school and then revert to a completely different and diametrically opposed set of values as they head home. That system doesn't work in school and it doesn't work in the professional world either.
By no means am I saying that we all need to be cookie cutters of the perfect person. Individuality and creativity are prized possessions. Common sense is perhaps the greatest.