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Former Red Sox player and Hall of Famer, Jim Rice, currently finds himself amidst a self-created controversy for singling out Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter as bad influences on America’s youth while at the Little League World Series this past weekend. Rice compared current MLB players to those of his generation, citing that “dread locks and baggy clothes” contribute to the “bad example” that these players set.
Since when do athletes having dreadlocks cause a negative influence on children? Does an athlete’s hairstyle have that much power? Children did not run to grocery stores to buy green and pink hair dye when they saw Dennis Rodman playing for the Bulls. There are plenty of other current professional athletes who sport dreadlocks or long hair, such as Pittsburgh Steelers safety, Troy Polamalu. Is he also a bad influence on children? No. A child is not going to join a gang or meddle in drugs just because he sees an athlete with dreadlocks and baggy pants at a baseball game.
If Rice’s problems with today’s players are the issues of steroids and selfishness, than he should have addressed that and left out the attacks on personal appearance. It is important for professional athletes to be good role models for children because many boys and girls alike grow up idolizing athletes. If they see that their favorite baseball player is charged with using steroids or other drugs, that may negatively impact them. In accepting an offer from a team, professional athletes know that they are taking on an additional job as role model. Just as they looked up to pro athletes before them, children will begin collecting their playing cards as well.
Major league players have a duty to be mindful of their actions on and off the field. However, they should not have to worry about the effects of having long or short hair. An athlete’s choice of clothes or hairstyle is a personal reflection and will not corrupt the youth of America. If Rice wants to examine athletes and baggy clothes, perhaps he should look at the NBA as well. Calling only Manny out for that reason is simply childish.
Yesterday, Rice dug a deeper hole for himself by retracting his statement and saying that he was “misquoted”. He was not referring to A-Rod and Jeter, only a fair-weathered Manny who plays when he likes, but both Yankees players do not buy his story. He clearly threw them under the bus with Manny. Those are not names that someone easily confuses with other players in the MLB. There is only one A-Rod.
Aside from Rice’s attempt at a motivational speech to the Little League players, the main message he seemed to send was that of the name calling game, defaming some kid’s role models.