Article by Rashard Davis | Photography by Neil Harman | Owl Staff

Growing up, I was a huge Terrell Owens fan, especially when he was a member of my favorite NFL team, the San Francisco 49ers.

I not only watched him because of his abilities on the field, but also because I saw that he was always in shape. He influenced me even at a young age to stay healthy and fit.

However, many athletes that kids look up to today are sending the opposite message through partnerships with fast-food companies.

Basketball player LeBron James promotes McDonald’s, soccer player David Beckham promotes Burger King, and football player Peyton Manning promotes Papa John’s Pizza.

Serena and Venus Williams starred in an Oreo commercial along with Peyton and Eli Manning for the Super Bowl. Soccer player Christiano Ronaldo participated in a commercial for KFC in 2014.

Figure skater Michelle Kwan was a “Coca-Cola ambassador” during the 2014 Olympics, despite her role as a member of the President’s Council on Fitness.

Shaquille O’Neal, founder of “Soda Shaq” drinks, raised concerns with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) due to his appearance with Michelle Obama at an event for “Let’s Move,” her anti-childhood obesity campaign.

“You can’t do a photo-op with the first lady promoting exercise one day and sell disease-promoting sodas the rest of the year,” says Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI Executive Director at the time.

Marie Bragg, director of the SocioEconomic Evaluation of Dietary Decision Program at the NYC School of Medicine adds that athletes “send the wrong message” to kids by endorsing foods that are unhealthy.

“They are failing at their job as role models.”

Sara Deon, a meal campaign director from Corporate Accountability International, also questions the partnerships between Olympic athletes and fast-food chains.

In a letter to the athletes, Deon wrote that “athletes should not accept sponsorship from McDonald’s, a corporation that drives the worldwide epidemic of diet-related disease.”

According to the Journal Of American Medicine, 35% of U.S. adults are obese and approximately 17% of children aged 2-19 are obese.

Children are easily influenced by whom they admire, and athletes are abusing that power. They are failing at their job as role models. Let’s shape up America and inspire our children to make healthy choices regardless of what their favorite athlete promotes.

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