Sept. 27, 2003 -- Measuring "image" and "character" are inexact approximations, but these criteria are often used to grade public figures. Due to their highly visible professions, almost all NBA players will be judged on these attributes at some point during their careers. Therefore, the sooner players acknowledge their roles as public figures, the easier it is for them to handle these complex relationships.

In order to better prepare new players for interaction with the media and the public, this year's Rookie Transition Program held a panel discussion on "Character, Image and Ethics." Among the panel members were: Selena Roberts of the New York Times and Reverend Calvin Butts of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. Roberts and Butts answered a few key questions for

Q: What should rookies look to do to establish their own character and image?
Selena Roberts: "Players should be true to themselves, and show their best side, but not pretend to be someone they are not. If you are a family man, then that's who you should be. And be true to your profession, true to your team and the fans. Use the media to create your image, (don't see the media) as the enemy. See the media as a conduit and use them to your advantage when possible."

Reverend Calvin Butts: "Players need to adhere to the best standards. They need to keep their bodies in the best physical shape, and not intoxicate themselves with alcoholic beverages and drugs. They should immerse themselves in the local communities. They shouldn't isolate themselves by hiding with their headphones on and talking on their cell phones. Get involved in local social and political forums. Get to know people in the communities. Become a citizen of the place in which they live, and broaden their horizons. Most importantly, they need to realize that the world is watching them, so if they see trouble, they need to leave immediately. But the most important thing for them is to employ the best moral principles they have been taught."

"Players are role models whether they are comfortable with it or not. The American athlete is expected to be a role model morally, physically and spiritually."
--Reverend Calvin Butts
Q: What role does image play with the fans and media?
Roberts: "With the money the players are making comes high expectations. And the expectations are all-inclusive, which translates to on- and off-the-court. And in this current economic climate, where CEOs are taking image hits, players need to realize that fans want to get their money's worth from the players."

Butts: "Image plays a huge role in that it dictates support from the fans. If they think the image is sordid, then they will not come to see the games, and parents will not allow their kids to watch the games. Kids will see the behaviors and think that they need to behave the same way, which will not be good for the game, or for them personally. It will give them the wrong idea of how to be a good man or woman."

Q: What can players do to break through the current image/character stereotypes people have of NBA players?
Roberts: "Players need to make a genuine connection with the public. The fans want to know who these guys are, and see them are real people. Players can use the media to their advantage for this -- Latrell Sprewell is a good example of someone who was able to use the media to help turn their image around."

Butts: "Being here today helped me to see that the NBA isn't abandoning the players, and that the new group of players coming into the league are nothing like they are portrayed. More people need to know that the alleged missteps by a few young men are not the actions of the majority, and the entire group should not be penalized for the behavior of a few."

Q: What responsibilities do you think players have as role models?
Roberts: "The primary responsibility is to the team, and to be on time. Being late to practices or games projects an image of irresponsibility. This practice carries over off-the-court as well. If players are committed to a hospital visit, then they need to be responsible and show up on time. Things like this do not have to be a fight."

Butts: "Players are role models whether they are comfortable with it or not. The American athlete is expected to be a role model morally, physically and spiritually. They are expected to promote good health, good moral behavior, reverence for youth and respect for maturity. The are expected to be celebrators of American ideals, both domestically and internationally, and to stand for the brightest and best in our nation."