I grew in the era of high-profile, wealthy athletes proudly stating “I am not a role model” to their young fans.
For those of you that don’t remember, NBA legend Charles Barkley starred in a semi-controversial Nike ad in the 90’s. While the message by Barkley was actually quite important, kids like myself had no clue what Sir Charles was expressing. We just assumed he didn’t care about us or the game and was only in it for the money.
But times have changed since Barkley played. Social media and other outlets have made it easier for players to interact with fans. Some grasp it, and some don’t, but either way, players have much more access getting their message out to fans.
One guy that understands the responsibility of being a local role model is Golden Knights center, William Karlsson.
There are little kids watching and looking up to you, and you want to make a good example for those kids. Overall, in life you just try and be the best person you can be. And if that’s what being a good role model is, then I hope I am. -William Karlsson
Karlsson and I chatted a few weeks back about striving to become a good example for kids on and off the ice. In his point of view, it’s critical for the 26-year center to represent himself and the city of Las Vegas with class.
First of all I represent Vegas, right? So, I got to make sure I behave. -Karlsson
With big money awaiting him, possibly this summer, the beloved star doesn’t expect his attitude will change. To Karlsson, he’s really just a normal dude like all of us. And he’s grateful to be playing for Golden Knight fans.
That’s what I am, I’m just a person. I’m happy to play hockey and happy to have a lot of fans. -Karlsson
Karlsson grew up idolizing a Swedish hockey legend. The Hall of Famer’s approachable, down to earth personality rubbed off on #71.
I was always looked up to Peter Forsberg. I never knew him, but I met him this summer and he was really nice. He gained a level of my admiration. He was my hero growing up. It’s good to see superstars like that are great guys. -Karlsson
Lastly, Karlsson talked about his unique situation being a first generation Golden Knight and influencing a young fanbase. Karlsson hopes twenty years down the road some of the kids that idolized him are playing in the NHL.
Yeah Exactly. Hopefully, they’ll be from Vegas. -Karlsson
While some professional athletes don’t care about their fans or image, there will always be gracious ones like Karlsson. No matter how things are going on the ice, he’ll always recognize his responsibility to his young supporters. His approach is fairly simple for Karlsson.
Hopefully, I’ll be remembered as a good hockey player, and a good guy. -Karlsson
You’re on your way, William.