New Orleans Pelicans center Steven Adams is one of the most recognizable NBA players, even though he is not a superstar in the NBA. He made a guest appearance on JJ Redick's podcast where they talked about a few exciting topics and touched upon an interesting subject of athlete worship in the US, which is slightly different from how athletes are treated in other countries worldwide.
There is a notion that successful athletes are regarded as public figures who are supposed to serve as role models in the community. People look to athletes for guidance regarding other things in life, specifically in the last year with the social and racial justice alongside the pandemic. Numerous athletes use their platforms to speak about specific issues and share their influence. Fans listen to them, sometimes not even thinking if they are right regarding certain situations or events they are promoting.
Adams said people love to kiss your a**, especially when they find out you are a professional athlete making millions of dollars. There are many fake people and behavior that is not natural, at least for Adams, who compared the culture he was raised in, coming from New Zealand. Things are much different in the US, and Adams believes people should look for guidance somewhere else instead of going to athletes.
You kind of get detached from reality because a lot of a people will just, like, kiss your ass. And you know, you're the funny guy. They laugh at all your jokes. You become a lot more handsome. You know, this is what comes with the NBA logo. If you wear it, it's quite amazing. But it's just not reality, though. You know what I mean? It is for your stint, I guess. But for whatever else, it's not. So that culture change is really crazy, especially in America too. The athletes here are held really high, and a lot of players should be once they reach a certain level. But it kind of goes across everything. Some people look at them for political guidance. Moral guidance. It's just like, maybe just maybe just for the sport, look for this dude. But for some other things, go to some of these other guys.
Steven Adams, via JJ Redick
A long time ago, when he was still playing in the NBA, Charles Barkley said he is not a role model and that kids shouldn't look to him for any advice or imitate his behavior. In many ways, Barkley was right the same way Adams is now, and people shouldn't have high regard for athletes as very knowledgeable about various everyday topics and problems. Even though they are great at their profession when it comes to other things, they often have the same or even less knowledge about some of the things they advocate than ordinary people.
That doesn't mean athletes should just 'shut up and dribble,' but people shouldn't blindly follow them unless they are confident an athlete has a deep understanding and knowledge about the topic he is promoting through his platform. We've seen multiple times where athletes take on an issue, have a deep understanding of the problem, and provide a solution or incentivize people to follow their actions in combating those problems. That type of behavior is deeply rooted in American culture, which can often seem confusing and unnecessary from an outside perspective, just like in Adam's case.