Sports stars are often held up as paragons, as inspirations to us all.
Young people copy their actions, those in adulthood rue missed opportunities oft wondering why they are not in the similar position.
All in all this makes it worrying why Kobe Bryant, one of the most recognisable sports stars in North America, if not the world, was seen apparently uttering the word "faggot" to a referee.
Such an example could very quickly be seen as being acceptable by tens of thousands of people.
English football fan's minds will immediately think of the incident involving Wayne Rooney where he uttered a number of expletives into a TV camera after scoring a goal. The result - a two game suspension.
In the Bryant case the NBA acted swiftly and fined him $100,000. For that they must be praised.
The head of NBA David Stern made the sport's position very clear in a statement.
He said: "Kobe Bryant's comment during last night's game was offensive and inexcusable. While I'm fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated.
"Accordingly, I have fined Kobe $100,000. Kobe and everyone associated with the NBA know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society."
Bryant himself said: "My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period.
"The words expressed do not reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were not meant to offend anyone."
These words and apology do not excuse Bryant from what was a clearly offensive comment, not just to the referee but to gay people across the globe.
The fine is welcomed but it needs to be put in perspective.
Bryant earns more than $30 million. A fine of $100,000 is hardly going to hurt him personally.
But what it will do is grab the headlines and make kids and adults know that such language is not acceptable, never has been and never will be.
From recent memory there have been no notable examples of football authorities taking similar stances.
Whether it is through lack of evidence - as such language does get uttered on the pitch and in the terraces - reluctance, or inability to track down the offenders, who knows.
Whatever the reason we hope the FA, Uefa and Fifa sit up and take note of the NBA's admirable lead.