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Last updateWed, 23 Aug 2017 8am

Opinion

Can Athletes Still Be Seen As Role Models After Ray Rice Scandal?

Devon-Still-and-Daughter-LeahWill Ray Rice play football again in Baltimore? Quoth the Ravens, "Nevermore." After being suspended two games for beating his now-wife, Janay, new and more graphic video of the incident leaked this week by TMZ. This led the Baltimore Ravens to terminate the three-time Pro Bowl running back's contract and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. Now NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is embroiled in an investigation into whether he knew about this footage before TMZ leaked it and how much he really knew when he handed down that initial two game suspension. But this incident has also raised another issue that has not been touched on by most media outlets: Do athletes still make good role models?

I know as a kid, and a life-long Mets fan, I had several different t-shirts with Mike Piazza's name and number on them. I also knew many other kids who wore Derek Jeter t-shirts. The idea that either of these players, or any other popular athletes for that matter, was capable of things like steroid abuse or domestic violence never entered my mind. I only cared about how they performed on the field; how many home runs they hit or how many runs they drove in. But with more and more athletes today being judged by how they act off the field, is it a good idea for children to idolize sports stars like Rice?

The answer is yes. What Rice did to his then-fiancé in that elevator was inexcusable, detestable, and downright unforgiveable. There is absolutely no reason for any man to do that to any woman, especially one he supposedly loves enough to marry. While Ray Rice isn't exactly role model material anymore, there was another story that came out of the NFL this week that didn't garner nearly as much media attention as the Rice incident - but it should have.

Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still showed this week that athletes can still be role models, even amidst all of the news stories that would have you believe otherwise. Still has a 4-year-old daughter named Leah who has been battling cancer at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia since June.

After pulling a hamstring in the team's second preseason game, a 25-17 loss to the New York Jets, the Bengals elected to keep Still on their practice squad, allowing him to keep his medical coverage and enabling him to continue to care for Leah. The team also announced it would donate all proceeds from the sale of Still's jersey to pediatric cancer research and the Children's Hospital in Cincinnati.

Still has since been promoted back to the 53-man roster in time for this Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons, though it has not been decided if he will start yet. When asked about how Still handled the situation, Bengals' head coach Marvin Lewis told NBCPhiladelhphia.com, "He's done everything he can to be a part of the football team. He's got himself back healthy again.... We'll continue to allow him to do what he needs to do as far as attending to her care because it's important."

When the same website asked Still his thoughts about getting healthy again, he simply said, "This is a business." But at the same time, he said he wanted to use his celebrity powers for good and raise awareness for pediatric cancer research.

"I didn't want her to fight for no reason. I wanted to bring light upon every family and every child who's going through this same battle so they can receive help from outside people."

So just when it appears the sports world is full of athletes like Rice, A-Rod and Johnny Manziel, there are others like Still who show we can still aspire to be like our sports heroes.

While Manziel is known for his constant showboating and arrogance, A-Rod for being the latest baseball star suspected of steroid abuse, and Rice for knocking his now-wife unconscious in a casino elevator, Still is different. For him to persevere through not only a serious injury, but to do so while trying to stay positive for his 4-year-old daughter who is fighting something so much more serious? We should all aspire to possess that level of strength and courage.

I've been a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs for a while now, but I'll also be pulling for the Bengals and Still to do well this season. If his story proves anything, it shows that there are 'Still' good guys in sports and that it's 'Still' ok to look up to them.

IMAGE TAKEN from urbynloft.com

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