Despite the money that they have, professional athletes are just like us.

By: Taren Vaughan

In this “wonderful” society that we live in, the more money you have, the more important you are to people. Status determines how respected you are and how much your opinion is worth in certain situations. Simply put, the bigger the paycheck, the more clout you have. And for the most part, pro athletes are individuals that fall into this category. Even though many of them could care less about being in the spotlight all the time, it is pretty much a situation that can’t be avoided. And when you are constantly on the media’s radar, these players start to feel the pressure to succeed and remain as “pure” as possible. So in other words, professional athletes are supposed to be these flawless individuals who do everything right? Is that fair to expect that of them? I mean aren’t they human just like you and I?

Last week, Denver Broncos Kenny McKinley was found dead at his home from an apparent suicide. Why McKinley chose to take his life has not been revealed. But I’m sure that many have begun to speculate as to why the late wide receiver pulled the trigger on himself that day. Now you may think: Why would he do that to himself? Here he is this high paid NFL player who never has to worry about where his next meal is coming from. Doesn’t his money solve all his problems? If only that statement were true. Being rich and famous doesn’t mean that you are not flesh and blood just like everyone else in this world.

We are so quick to forget that these people are human beings just like we are. They feel pain like we do, they eat, sleep, breath, cry like we do. And most of all, professional athletes go through hard times in their lives just like us normal folks do. Just because society has chosen to place them on this untouchable pedestal, we have come to the conclusion that they are somehow immortal. Nothing can stop them from going through the things that the everyday person goes through.

Did we lose sight of the fact that they were not always in these positions? For most professional sports icons, they did not grow up with silver spoons in their mouths. And this especially rings true for a number of African Americans in the pros as many of them were subjected to living in rough neighborhoods and apart of families that struggled to keep their heads above water. I’m sure that they are extremely thankful for the fact that God blessed them with payable skills. But I assure you that these individuals can do without all the glitz and glamour sometimes. It sounds wonderful and all but at the end of the day, the pressure from being a pro athlete can really take its toll on a person and cause them to hurt themselves, even to the point of death.

As the late Christopher Wallace once said: “Mo’ money, mo’ problems”. He couldn’t have summed it up any better. Once you reach a certain level in your career and start making a lot of money, things begin to change. Envy and jealously begin to run rapid and people who were once in your corner are nowhere to be found. No longer are you surrounded by your loved ones and those who really have your best interest at heart. Majority of the time, the people that you are in closest contact with are ones that could care less about your wellbeing and just want to know how you can make them some money.

It’s a cold world out there in the sports industry or any other lucrative industry for that matter. And no one’s feelings get spared at all. That’s the way it is when you are a high profile individual. The question is: Is it right? Should we be so overly critical of these players to the point where they are driven to taking their own lives? Why can’t they play the sport that they love without excessive amounts of pressure being placed on them?

The reasons why professional athletes attempt to take their own lives or behave in ways that could result in a criminal record do not always stem from pressure. Sometimes, there are underlying personal issues that they are dealing with outside of the sport that they play. But a lot of times, it does happen due to an athlete’s attempt to please everyone. And that is just not possible to do.

Pressure can do one of two things to a person. It can make them stronger and push them to do more. Or it can cause a person to crumble, making them quit what they are doing the first chance they get or do something tragic to themselves or someone else. It affects all of us in different ways. The main thing that we all must keep in mind is that these athletes are human. And even if they don’t appear to be affected by the things that people say about them and how they treat them, it does. So before you are so quick to bash them or come down hard on them, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes…Having a change of heart now?

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