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What happens when pro athletes disappoint their teenage fans?

Youth around the country have a lot to say about how the National Football League has handled the revelations that former running backs Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson have committed domestic violence.

Adrian Peterson has been indicted on child-abuse charges for beating his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch, and the NFL has barred him from playing while the case moves through the courts. After TMZ revealed a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé in an elevator, the NFL placed him on an indefinite suspension, expanding his earlier, lighter suspension.

Student Reporting Labs student journalists wanted to find out what young people think about the news and whether professional athletes should be considered role models.

Some students condemned the use of physical violence in all cases. “There is always a good certain amount of discipline, but there shouldn’t be an overuse of it, and hitting men or women is really unacceptable,” Laryssa Wills, a senior at Pflugerville High School, said.
Others pointed out that some parents consider it acceptable to issue physical punishments for kids.

“Ray Rice definitely needs to be punished for his actions against his fiancé…but I feel like the Adrian Peterson issue is a little less severe because 50 years ago, that’s how everyone disciplined their children,” Jack Boomer, a sophomore at Judge Memorial Catholic High School, said.

This does not excuse Peterson’s excessive use of force, Preya Desai, a senior at Fort Mill High School, said. “Hitting your son with a tree branch goes beyond all acceptable forms of discipline,” she said.

Some students believe that once athletes make it to the big leagues, they should think about all the kids who now look up to them and accept the responsibility of modeling positive behavior for the rest of society.

“They’re role models to us, whether we want to accept that fact or not. They’re always out there,” one student said.
But athletes’ jobs do not necessarily dictate that they be good role models, argued John Romanski, a senior at Fort Mill High School.

“Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice are both NFL running backs. That’s their job, that’s what they get paid to do. Their job title isn’t ‘role model,’” he said. “Good role models are people that have good morals and values, and it’s up to us to determine who those people are.”

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