Drunken Role Models: Rescuing Our Sporting Exemplars

Sport, Ethics and Philosophy 5 (4):414 - 432 (2011)
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It is often claimed that elite professional athletes are role models and as such have certain duties to behave in morally appropriate ways. The argument is that given their influential status and influence, they should be good examples rather than bad ones. In relation to alcohol consumption and the problematic behaviours associated with excessive consumption, many professional athletes are bad role models. They consume too much and behave badly. Drawing on neo-Aristotelian insights I argue the following. First, persons who exhibit good character and virtues like self-control are preferable to those who exemplify vice like recklessness and selfishness in general and in relation to alcohol consumption in particular. To exhibit virtue is both good in itself and preferable from a moral education perspective. In other words it is better to exemplify virtue in front of others who may follow the example. Second, acting well and becoming the right sort is notoriously difficult and the moral atmosphere or the ethos of the culture in which virtue plays out has a significant impact. It is important therefore to include the ethos of sporting practice in any proposed reform of drinking behaviour such that tolerance and tacit promotion of masculine drinking practices is eschewed in favour of responsible and considerate consumption. Finally I argue that we must cultivate the proper virtue of emulation so that people who are admired or esteemed (sporting heroes) by young people in particular are not copied blindly. In other words it is important to cultivate a critical capacity to recognise worthy role models and to avoid identifying with unworthy characters, practices and vices. Part of this process is to highlight proper and worthy role models inside and outside of sport. In conclusion, I believe that although bad role models are grabbing the headlines in relation to problematic drinking practices, there are good role models in sport who should be lauded as exemplars of good character living a worthwhile sporting life. Such characters can show those inside and outside the practice community a more responsible and considerate approach to alcohol



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Citations of this work

Shame and the sports fan.Alfred Archer & Benjamin Matheson - 2019 - Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 46 (2):208-223.
Athletes as heroes and role models: an ancient model.Heather Reid - 2017 - Sport, Ethics and Philosophy 11 (1):40-51.
Judging athletes’ moral actions: some critical reflections.Carwyn Jones - 2019 - Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 46 (1):1-13.

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References found in this work

After Virtue.A. MacIntyre - 1981 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 46 (1):169-171.
The educative importance of ethos.Terence McLaughlin - 2005 - British Journal of Educational Studies 53 (3):306-325.

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