Pistorius allegedly beat Steenkamp with a cricket bat and shot her multiple times in their home. Due to witness accounts of the murder, his track record of domestic violence and the relative frailty of Pistorius’ defense — he claims that he thought she was an intruder — most are pretty certain that he’s guilty.
Unsurprisingly, this crime has shaken many who once considered Pistorius to be a hero. As often happens when someone in the public eye commits an offense (although usually not as grievous as Pistorius’), a long-argued debate has risen regarding athletes’ responsibility as role models.
When news of the Pistorius case first broke, it was a huge topic of conversation on the UCSD track team. As we warmed up for practice and speculated about whether or not Pistorius was guilty, one of my teammates grumbled, “It doesn’t matter whether he did it or not. He’s a famous athlete, he’s gonna get thrown under the bus.”
Whenever there’s public outcry against an athlete cheating on his or her spouse or starting a fight or simply saying something rude, there are those who defend famous athletes’ right to be scrutinized as “regular people.”
On the other hand, there are those who argue that people in the public eye, including teachers, politicians and athletes, assume role model responsibility implicitly because of their occupation.
As a result, these people argue that famous athletes should be subjected to a higher level of public scrutiny. In fact, some argue that Pistorius has been treated too lightly by the media due to his athlete status.
Jezebel writer Katie J.M. Baker’s article, satirically titled “Newspapers Report that Awesome Athlete Oscar Pistorius May Have Killed Some Hot Chick,” complains that media outlets, instead of focusing on the gravity of his murder charges, “were so distracted by Pistorius’s athletic prowess … that they forgot to say much about [Steenkamp] at all.”
There are many others who agree with this; another friend of mine with an interest in the case complained, “He’s getting off way too lightly. The fact that he’s a famous athlete just means he should be stricter about his behavior. When you’re rich and famous, you gotta accept that you have to be a role model. It’s a small price to pay when you’re rolling in money.”
If Pistorius is guilty (and to be perfectly honest, I’m pretty sure he is), then the South African justice system will hopefully deal with him impartially.
Unfortunately, Pistorius’ unshakeable role-model status will inarguably haunt him despite the results of the court proceedings.