January is an amazing time for sports enthusiasts. The football season is wrapping up and awards and championships are won. Yet in recent years, many of the awards seem to have a dark cloud hanging over them.
Case in point: Jameis Winston.
The story should be pretty commonplace in most fans’ minds, but for those living under a rock, here’s a little recap. He was the winner of both the NCAA football National Championship Game and the coveted Heisman award for the 2013 season. Around the same time he won all these major awards, several accusations of sexual assault were levied against him.
Though some of the accusations have been disproved, many of his actions off the field have fallen on par with the picture we have now of this “champion.” His off-field antics have led to suspensions during the most recent season, and more limelight than a student-athlete—or any athlete—really needs in their career.
Examples of our “quality” champions can be found in just about every sport. U.S. women’s national soccer team goalkeeper, Hope Solo, is a world-record shut out holder, and during the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup she was voted the Golden Glove best goalkeeper of the event. But even with all her skill, she has quite the black mark on her record.
At the end of 2014, Solo was charged in a case of domestic abuse, in which the charges were later dropped, where she assaulted her sister and nephew in a heated argument. Most recently she was suspended for 30 days stemming from recent DUI charges.
So, the real question is not why is this happening, but why do we honor these people as being the best when they are just terrible people?
Honestly, it’s hard to be a fan of sports and have a desire to play when the negative examples are prominent in the national image. From cases like Ray Rice and Hope Solo of the modern day, to cases of the past like Lance Armstrong and O.J. Simpson, our chosen champions need to clean up their act.
Luckily, there are some good examples. The NFL has a yearly award known as the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. One player from each of the 32 teams in the league are nominated for this award based on how they are helping the community off the field. This brings recognition to charities like soup kitchens and foundations devoted to childhood cancer. The yearly winner will receive $26,000 towards a charity of their choice.
So for the champions out there, it’s not about playing well and racking up the awards. It’s about being a champion in your whole life, on and off the field. That will always make you the real MVP.