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Wins a bit of attention for The Age.

Former Treasurer Peter Costello wrote in his column in The Age on Wednesday:

Footballers are not chosen for their moral principles. They do not go into a national draft for budding philanthropists. They can run and catch and kick a ball. What are the clubs thinking when they send them to schools to give guidance on life skills? Any right-thinking parent would quake with fear to hear that footballers were coming to their daughter’s school to give a little bit of inspiration.

Costello refers to a story about a young woman who claims to have had sex with two St Kilda players she met at a school skills clinic, got pregnant, and posted naked pictures of the footballers on the internet to prove it. Except there’s no evidence she was pregnant, and the photos were stolen.

The real story there was the eagerness with which the legacy media take up and publish anything which belittles high profile people or organisations, and the lack of fact checking that takes place before publication. But I guess that’s not news to anyone.

It makes as much sense to say the moral of the St Kilda story is that footballers ought to quake with fear any time they are required to have anything to do with teenage girls as to say that parents should be worried about footballers running a life skills clinic.

Costello says that footballers are not chosen for their moral principles. Well, no. Neither are politicians. If a few sports stars misuse their standing for sexual or financial rewards, that is no reason to suggest that the lot of them are hooligans with nothing useful to say, just as the fact that a few pollies do the same thing is no reason to make assumptions about the morals or effectiveness of the rest.

Star footballers, or people who have reached the top in any field of endeavour, are indeed likely to have useful life skills to teach:

Talent alone will not guarantee success, hard work counts, you make your own luck, teamwork is important, you reach your goals when you have priorities and stick to them, you have to sacrifice some things you might like in order to achieve others.

However, Costello is right about most of this, from the same column:

Whatever else you think of Warne, he ranks as one of the greatest cricketers of all time. Judged as a sportsman, he is simply the best of his generation. But if he aspires to be more than that, he has a problem.

It is common these days for successful sports people to establish philanthropic foundations. Ricky Ponting has one, as does Steve Waugh. And, of course, there is the Shane Warne Foundation “which raises funds to enrich the lives of seriously ill and underprivileged children”. Helping underprivileged children is admirable, but I can’t help thinking that one of those clever publicists has convinced cricketers that charity work will enhance their image and their brand.

When a person takes naming rights on a charity, they are putting their character forward to the public as a reason to make a donation. They are asking people to trust them on the basis of their reputation. They cannot complain if people decide to carefully scrutinise that reputation.

That last paragraph is spot on. But even sleazy blighters can have genuine concern for people in need. Cynicism about good works done by others just makes the cynic look ungenerous.

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