Category Archives: Image

Friday Morning Workout

Friday Morning Workout

Welcome to your Friday Morning Workout, THIRDandFOUR’s new weekly post for those of you who missed the week’s news concerning sports law, sports business, sports media, or sports public relations.  Dig in and make sure you break a sweat!

Selig fully supports David Einhorn’s purchase of one-third of the Mets from principal owners Fred Wilpon and family, notwithstanding the $1-billion plus lawsuit that has been brought against the Wilpons by Trustee Irving Pickard on behalf of victims of Bernard Madoff’s ponzi scheme.  The Court recently granted the Wilpons’ motion to move the case from the bankruptcy court to a federal district court, where Judge Rakoff likely will limit the plaintiffs’ recovery based on a theory that the Wilpons’ failure to investigate Madoff’s investments did not constitute “willful blindness” or culpable intent.  Read more.

Erin Andrews opens up about her stalker.  Read more.

The assistant to Canadian sports doctor Anthony Galea claims that though the doctor treated Tiger Woods after his 2009 knee surgery, he did not inject Woods with any illegal substances.  Read more.

Shaquille O’Neal decides to join TNT’s NBA Coverage. Read more.

Former Cowboy’s wide receiver and sports commentator Michael Irvin appears shirtless on the cover of the gay men’s magazine Out, where he explains that his passion for marriage equality is a direct result of his relationship with his gay brother who died from cancer in 2006.  Read more.

ESPN Now Making Candy Bars too?  Read more.

The NFL and the NFL Players Association project that they will ratify a new CBA by July 21, 2011 in order to save the entire NFL pre-season.   The most complex issues yet to be resolved through negotiations are veteran free agency and the rookie wage system. Read more.

See how sports figures use Twitter. Read more.

The NFL salary cap will undoubtedly be lower than before once a CBA is adopted.  With a hypothetical $120 million cap, the following six teams already exceed it: (1) the Dallas Cowboys; (2) the Oakland Raiders; (3) the New York Giants; (4) the Pittsburg Steelers; (5) the Minnesota Vikings; and (6) the Indianapolis Colts. Read more.

CNBC’s SportsBiz expert Darren Rovell provides 100 rules for using Twitter. Read more.

Pursuant to the 1999 NBA collective bargaining agreement, the NBA withholds 8% of player salaries and places it into escrow each season to ensure that these salaries do not exceed 57% of league revenues.  Unlike every other season, the NBA will soon return this year’s money to the players due to increased revenue throughout the 2010-11 season—a welcome surprise for certain players and fuel to the players’ argument that the League does not need to overhaul the current financial system.  Read more.

Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA’s Vice President of Enforcement, has made it clear that the NCAA is not done investigating Auburn with respect to its dealings with Cam Newton.  Read more.

ESPN initiates suit against Ohio State University, accusing the school of violating the state’s public records law by denying requests for information concerning the NCAA’s investigation of Tressel and Pryor.  Read more.

Despite Prince Fielder’s displayed adoration for his sons during the MLB All-Star festivities this week (a true image booster), he has no intentions of rebuilding the torn relationship between him and his father, former all-star first baseman Cecil Fielder.  Read more.

Sports Illustrated’s List of 100 people in Sports To Follow on Twitter.  Read more.

Adam Pacman Jones may have, for once, been profiled and improperly targeted leading up to his July 10th arrest.  Read more.

The NCAA nabs its next victim: Georgia Tech over a mere $312. Read more.

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Weekly Correction – James Harrison

One of the best things about covering sports media, image, law, and pr is that you never have to search too far for a story.  And some days, you get an athlete who gives you a mushball straight down the middle of the plate.  This week’s “Weekly Correction” goes to Steeler’s Linebacker James Harrison who decided to take on Commissioner Roger Goodell, his teammates, his opponents, and several broadcasters in an interview in this month’s Men’s Journal.

He then topped off his offensive and over the line quotes by posing for the picture you see above.

For those of you not familiar with James Harrison, this isn’t the first time he and Roger Goodell have butted heads.  In fact, this outburst is just another step in an ongoing feud.  Harrison came under fire from the Commish in 2010 for several late and violent hits – and was fined a total of $120,000, for which Harrison publicly questioned why he was being singled out.

In this latest interview, Harrison took things a step further by calling Goodell a “crook” and a “puppet” and stating that if “he (Goodell) was on fire and I had to piss him out, I wouldn’t do it”.  Harrison went on to call Goodell “stupid”, a “dictator” and even threw in an anti-gay slur for good measure.

But James was just getting started.  After going after Goodell, he trashed his own quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, claiming that even though he gets paid like Peyton Manning, he isn’t as good.  And that the defense had to bail him out in last year’s Super Bowl for his interceptions.

Since taking on the Commissioner and his own team wasn’t enough, Harrison then went after Steelers rival the New England Patriots, accusing them of using stolen signals to beat the Steelers in the 2004 playoffs.  (There is evidence that the Patriots were taping practices of some teams during that season and were using it to their advantage).

He singled out Texans LB Brian Cushing for being “juiced” and called out broadcasters Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison (both former Patriots) for being “clowns”.

I guess James didn’t have time to call out the fans or the owners of the Steelers, because they are pretty much the only people left to criticize who are associated with the NFL.

Now Harrison has always been known as a bit of a hothead, but this is on a whole different level.  This wasn’t a spur of the moment postgame quote or two.  This was a pre-meditated attack on his team, the commissioner, and the league in general.  There really is no excuse for it, and unless Harrison can prove he was misquoted (highly unlikely), it’s going to be nearly impossible for him to walk himself out of this.

An apology might help, but it likely won’t accomplish much since this was pre-meditated in a sit down interview.   Although personal apologies and explanations to any teammates he offended are probably in order.  And likewise, since the author of the article probably used a tape recorder, Harrison will face an uphill battle claiming that this was merely a misquote – especially when so much of the interview was negative in nature.  It’s pretty clear that Harrison said these things.

The only thing Harrison can do now is lay low and hope that the lockout ends this week, which will remove his name from the headlines.  With news organizations starving for stories due to the NFL and NBA lockouts, this is sure to get plenty of coverage.

And for those athletes wondering what James Harrison should have done differently, I think it’s pretty obvious – don’t say stupid things, especially when you know you’re on the record.

But…if you’re going to insist on ripping the Commissioner, who has already shown he loves to take large portions of your paycheck, then may I suggest that you don’t also rip the guys who would usually defend you in these situations, your teammates.  Don’t look for Ben Roethlisberger or Rashard Mendenhall to lobby on your behalf anytime soon.

But…if you insist on taking on the Commish and your teammates, you probably should avoid angering and disrespecting your opponents.  Given that you may have angered enough teammates to earn yourself a one way ticket out of Pittsburgh, you never know when “cheating opponents” may soon become new teammates.

But…if you insist on laying into the Commish, your teammates, and your opponents, it’s probably not a good idea to rip the broadcasters.  When the Commish, your teammates, and opponents are all placing your picture on a dartboard, you may not find another team to play on and may be looking to join the broadcast booth sooner than you think.  Something tells me the “clowns” you mentioned won’t be eager to give you a glowing recommendation to executives at their respective networks.

But…if you insist on burning bridges with the team, the opponents and the networks, you might want to avoid posing for a picture shirtless holding two handguns.  Especially given that NFL Receiver Plaxico Burress just left jail for a gun related incident, and NBA Guard Gilbert Arenas was suspended for the majority of the season for possession of handguns.  It’s pretty clear where the league stands on guns, James, and it is not exactly enthusiastically supportive.

I’m not sure there is a way for Harrison to spin this into anything positive.   The only remedy is to keep his mouth shut and hope it goes away.

Weekly Correction – Chad Ocho Cinco

Ocho Cinco: The Man, The Legend

It’s that time of the week again when THIRDandFOUR highlights an athlete who would have benefited by consulting our website prior to painfully stumbling before either the media, a professional team or college program, a professional league, an officiating crew, and/or similar individuals and entities.  Welcome to Weekly Correction—the Ocho Cinco addition.

Because we consider Ocho Cinco such a unique individual, today’s edition of Weekly Correction is somewhat of an aberration.  Instead of providing Ocho advice as to how he should have approached the media in one of his recent television interviews, we will push him to answer the most critical question regarding his career: what do you really want to do?!?

Ocho takes on Dancing With The Stars

The Cincinnati Bengals’ veteran wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco certainly has enjoyed an above-average NFL career since exploding into the league in 2001.  From 2002 through 2007, he averaged per season 1,339 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns, leading the Bengals to the AFC North division title in 2005.  Since then, however, he has been the “King of Distractions,” while his performance on the football field has noticeably declined.  Though he logged 1,047 receiving yards in 2009—a year in which the Bengals won the AFC North title—he has averaged a mere 806 receiving yards and 5.7 touchdowns over the last three seasons.

Ocho's tryout with Sporting Kansas City

While Ocho has been anything but stellar as a wide receiver for the Bengals during this time period, he has successfully “caught” every non-football challenge thrown his way. Over the past four years, he has starred in the VH1 dating show The Ultimate Catch; raced and beat (with a head start) a professional horse at River Downs Racetrack in Cincinnati, Ohio; starred in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars; tried out for a spot on Kansas City’s Major League Soccer team Sporting Kansas City; rode a bull for 1.5 seconds at a Professional Bull Riders event in Georgia; and driven a racecar at 190 mph on a NASCAR track in Atlanta with Sprint Cup driver Jeff Burton.  Oh, and I shouldn’t forget to mention, in August 2008, Chad Johnson—number eighty-five for the Cincinnati Bengals—legally changed his name to Chad Javon Ocho Cinco in Broward County, Florida.  Get it: eighty-five translates to ocho cinco in Spanish.  Wait, what?  No, it doesn’t.

Dhani Jones

Anyway, I will momentarily digress: You are probably thinking, Ocho Cinco is not the first Bengal to tackle alternative sports during the NFL offseason.  You’re right; linebacker Dhani Jones stars in the Travel Channel’s show Dhani Tackles the Globe, which began airing in 2009 and features Dhani attempting to excel at sports that define cultures in different countries around the globe.  Dhani has taken on the ancient martial art of Pradal Serey in Cambodia; dragon boat racing in Singapore; cricket in Jamaica; polo in Croatia; and rugby in England, just to name a few of his adventures.  In an attempt to show that the love of sports is universal around the globe, Dhani immerses himself in the culture of the countries he visits.  He creates an educational experience for the Travel Chanel viewers, himself, and the individuals who live in the countries he visits.

Thus, Dhani is a true example of what THIRDandFOUR strives to foster: a professional athlete who is dedicated to his sport, yet aspires to create a professional image that will make the transition from football to his subsequent desired profession seamless.  From July through January/February, Dhani dives headfirst into the NFL season.  However, during the offseason, Dhani is, among other things, a television personality for the Travel Channel; a guest correspondent for ESPN2 and the NFL Network; and a writer for Page2 on ESPN.com.   Dhani runs a high-end bowtie company and occasionally serves beverages and food at his Bowtie Cafe in the historic Mount Adams neighborhood of Cincinnati.  Moreover, he writes books; on June 7, 2011, Dhani released his first book The Sportsman: Unexpected Lessons from an Around-the-World Sports Odyssey.

Now, I bring you back to your regularly scheduled programming on OCNN—the Ocho Cinco News Network.  On June 30, 2011 following Ocho Cinco’s recent NASCAR event, he participated in an ESPN interview on Sportscenter Express, where he opined about his upcoming challenge.  There, he informed us that he will make the trip to Okeechobee, Florida in the coming weeks to “catch a couple of gators.”  When asked, “are you really going to try to wrestle live alligators,” Ocho Cinco confidently responded, “have I ever steered you wrong any other time?  If I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it…  Wait and see what’s after the alligators.  I mean, if I get hurt—lose an arm—I can always be the kicker for the Bengals.”

Ocho Cinco’s June 30th announcement validated two things: (i) he is a living, breathing marketing ploy; and (ii) his marketing exploits do nothing to further either his professional football career or his seamless transition from football into another profession.

Indeed, Ocho’s offseason adventures cause people to take notice.  However, most individuals—including those involved with the Bengals organization—take notice and cringe.  First, most recently, Ocho Cinco has done everything possible to void his NFL contract with the Bengals.  Should he lose an arm wrestling alligators in the coming weeks, I’m pretty confident the Bengals won’t reserve a spot for him on the roster as a kicker (See former Chicago Bulls star Jay Williams and his non-existent basketball career following his 2003 motorcycle accident).  Second, unlike Dhani Jones, Ocho has not been selective about the avenues through which he markets himself professionally.  For the lack of a better term, he’s been all over the place.  He has failed to show that he is qualified to excel in alternative professions.

In sum, keep it coming, Ocho!  Sleep in a bed of snakes.  Take on Wladimir Klitschko…I’m pretty sure you can connect more punches than David Haye.  Swim with the sharks.  Shucks, juggle balls, while riding a unicycle and breathing fire!  I think it’s safe to say, Barnum and Bailey Circus will reserve a spot for you on their roster.

Weekly Correction – David Tyree

Welcome to this week’s edition of Weekly Correction, where we highlight an athlete who would have benefited by consulting our website prior to painfully stumbling before either the media, a professional team or college program, a professional league, an officiating crew, and/or similar individuals and entities.

This week’s nominee for a weekly correction is former New York Giants football player and Super Bowl XLII hero David Tyree.   As you’ll recall, Tyree is most famous for this spectacular catch that most Giants fans claim is an act of divine intervention. 

David has taken his association with divinity one step further this week as he has publicly come out against the same-sex marriage bill currently under consideration in the New York State Legislature. 

“I always knew that God had a hand enabling me to make that catch, with one hand on the side of my head. That was something I couldn’t do with my own abilities. Perhaps God orchestrated that play to give me a platform for what I’m doing here today: To urge political leaders all over our nation to reject same-sex marriage and to stand up for traditional marriage, which is truly the backbone of our civilization.”

His specific comments on the gay-marriage bill were as follows:

“What I know will happen if this does come forth is this will be the beginning of our country sliding toward, it is a strong word, but anarchy. The moment we have, if you trace back even to other cultures, other countries, that will be the moment where our society in itself loses its grip with what’s right.”

“It’s about what’s right.  It’s about how can marriage be marriage for thousands of years and now all of the sudden, because a minority, an influential minority, has a push or an agenda and totally reshapes something that was not founded in our country, not founded by man, it is something that is holy and sacred. I think there is nothing more honorable, worth fighting for, especially if we really care about our future generations.”

“This is what I do know, you can’t teach something that you don’t have. So two men will never be able to show a woman how to be a woman. And that’s just simple. That’s just for a lack of better terms, common sense.”

“Marriage is one of those things that is the backbone of society. So if you redefine it, it changes the way we educate our children, it changes the perception of what is good, what is right, what is just.”

 And finally, in a New York Daily News follow up article, when asked if he’d give up the Super Bowl to stop gay marriage, Tyree said: “Honestly, I probably would.”

Woo boy!  Plenty of missteps here by Mr. Tyree.  Let’s break it down piece by piece.  

Tyree firsts suggests that same-sex marriage will lead to anarchy.  While he is certainly entitled to his opinion, same-sex marriage is legal in five states and the District of Columbia, not to mention several foreign countries.  And to my knowledge, all of those states and countries still have perfectly functioning governments.

Tyree then asserts that “marriage has been marriage for thousands of years”. While that may be true from a religious perspective, from a government perspective, the oldest that marriage can be is 235 years.  Since we’re talking about a legal process and not a religious one, Tyree’s invocation of marriage in the religious sense further undermines his argument.  It shows he doesn’t really know all the issues at hand in this arena. 

As Tyree continues, his argument continues to weaken.  His belief that two men can’t show a woman how to be a woman isn’t an about marriage.   That’s an argument about procreation, or same-sex adoption.  While offspring are often a part of marriage, in many cases, for both heterosexual and homosexual couples, they are not.  If you’re keeping track at home, Tyree is 0-3. 

At this point his arguments are merely weak, but for good measure Tyree steps off the ledge into the land of hypocrisy.  He states that “Marriage is one of those things that is the backbone of society”, a popular belief by many.  Sadly, it’s not something Tyree must have believed in that much, as he had one child out-of-wedlock, and another was conceived before he married his current wife.  This “backbone of society” clearly didn’t apply to him until it was convenient for him to use it in his argument. 

And to top off the hypocrisy, Tyree decided to stick his nose into a matter that actually doesn’t concern him at all.  You see Tyree is a lifelong New Jersey resident.  Apparently the fact that the Giants claim to hail from New York (despite also playing in New Jersey), gave Tyree license to speak to Giants fans and New Yorker’s about a same-sex marriage bill.  That would be like me trying to tell Connecticut what speeding laws they should make because I drive through it on my way to Massachusetts. 

And finally, Tyree couldn’t leave well enough alone.  He had to twist the knife deeper for Giants fans who support same-sex marriage (and there are plenty) by offering that he’d trade in  his Super Bowl catch and win in order to block same-sex marriage. 

So where did Tyree go wrong? 

First, he spoke without having all of the facts, or choosing to ignore them.  If you’re going to step out on the ledge, at least make sure you’re stepping on a sturdy ledge.  With the comments Tyree made, its clear he spoke from the heart, not from the brain.  It’s an admirable approach, but not a smart one.

Second, he went off topic.  If there is an issue you care about, then stay focused on that issue.  Otherwise it gives your detractors a chance to move the conversation away from your point.

Third, he contradicted his own lifestyle.  This is probably the biggest no-no of all.  Much like the politician who advocates a sin free lifestyle who gets caught with a hooker, you can’t preach about something that you yourself don’t practice.  Tyree has no credibility to talk about the sanctity of marriage given his own situation.

Fourth, he got involved in a fight that was none of his business.  I know that many people will claim that same-sex marriage is a national issue, and that Tyree isn’t the first person from outside New York to sound off on it.  But the bottom line is that he’s not a New York resident, and if he really believes New York will go to anarchy if it allows same-sex marriage, then he’s free to living or visiting New York.  He can even go to Giants games without having to step inside the state. 

And Fifth, and perhaps the most important issue of all, Tyree touched the third rail of celebrity – politics AND religion.  There are plenty of people who do agree with David Tyree, but there are equally as many, if not more in a state like New York, who disagree with him. It was bad enough that he openly alienated a portion of the fan base by speaking out so strongly about a topic that is incredibly popular in New York right now, but he purposely connected it to his crowning achievement by saying he would trade in his catch to stop same-sex marriage.  In one comment he took his biggest asset and turned it into his biggest liability. 

Due to his Super Bowl heroics, David Tyree was a hero among Giants fans.  He could have spent the next 15 years making personal appearances, signing autographs, even giving speeches on seizing the moment.  It could have been incredibly lucrative for him.  And although he’s a former pro athlete, I’m guessing that given his limited NFL career, he wouldn’t have minded the extra income. Now that revenue stream is in serious jeopardy. While some fans will still pay for those appearances, autographs and speeches, there are many who will not. In short, he’s hurt his long-term marketability.  Maybe he didn’t care about that, but if he did, even a little bit, this was the wrong approach to take. 

Ultimately, there were ways Tyree could have handled this better as an opponent of same-sex marriage.  Avoiding hypocrisy, stocking up on facts and statistics, and focusing on the realistic ramifications are all things that could have at least allowed Tyree to come across as a concerned citizen voicing an opinion.  His approach involved none of those tactics. But in truth, the best thing he could have done was keep his mouth shut.  He’s getting more publicity than he has since the week after he made that historic catch in the Super Bowl, but for all the wrong reasons.  

For Tyree, there is no going back on this, because he’s made it clear this is what he believes.  And there is no way to suggest this was just a bad moment or a quote taken out of context.  He’s going to have to live with this one.  Hopefully he’s okay with that.

Weekly Correction: Terrelle’s Apology—A Special Shout Out to Tressel

Terrelle sends a "special shoutout" to Jim Tressel

THIRDandFOUR would like to introduce the Sports World to our new baby Weekly Correction.  Consistent with our theme concerning critical decisions, image cultivation and the professional athlete, THIRDandFOUR now provides a weekly note that highlights an athlete who would have benefited by consulting our website prior to painfully stumbling before either the media, a professional team or college program, a professional league, an officiating crew, and/or similar individuals and entities.

For our inaugural Weekly Correction, I highlight Terrelle Pryor, the newly announced former football star for the Ohio State University.  For those of you who are not familiar with Terrelle (sometimes confused with Terrell—as in Owens—even by his newly hired agent Drew Rosenhaus), he led the Buckeye Nation as their quarterback for the last three years.  During this time period, he amassed quite the statistical “trifecta,” while improving upon his overall game and becoming a more balanced quarterback each year.[1]

As evidence of Pryor’s gifts as a football player, he is OSU’s all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks, and his career total of 57 touchdown passes ties a school record.  Further, last year, he ranked among the top ten of NCAA quarterbacks with respect to passing efficiency.  Tellingly, those who ranked ahead of him include Cam Newton of Auburn (the no. 1 pick of the 2011 NFL draft), Kellen Moore of Boise State (who is considered by many to be the no. 1 college football player entering the 2011 season), Andrew Luck of Stanford (who is easily the second ranked college football player entering the 2011 season), Andy Dalton of TCU (the no. 35 pick of the 2011 NFL draft), and Ryan Mallett of Arkansas (the no. 74 pick of the 2011 NFL draft).  Those that ranked below him certainly didn’t ride the pine in 2010.  These quarterbacks include Jake Locker of Washington (drafted no.  8 to the Titans), Blaine Gabbert of Missouri (drafted no. 10 to the Jags), and Christian Ponder of Florida State (drafted no. 12 to the Vikings).

Just prior to the 2011 college football bowl season, however, news reports surfaced that Pryor, along with several of his teammates, had accepted improper benefits, including cash and tattoos, in exchange for OSU paraphernalia that they had obtained for free from the University.  However, instead of preventing these players from playing in the upcoming Allstate Sugar Bowl, the NCAA suspended each player for the first five games of the 2011-12 season.[2]  Subsequently, the Buckeyes went on to beat Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, 31-26, and over the next four months, Pryor consistently expressed his intentions of coming back to OSU for his senior season, notwithstanding the suspension awaiting him.

However, by May 30, 2011, reports concerning the severity of OSU’s infractions had grown worse than anyone could ever imagine.  Buckeye Coach Jim Tressel had acknowledged that he knew as early as April 2010 that his players had violated NCAA compliance rules, yet he didn’t disclose this information to the school and the NCAA—a clear breach of his coaching obligation and the NCAA compliance rules.  These facts along with mounting pressure from the University’s Administration ultimately compelled Tressel to resign on this date.  Soon thereafter, on June 7, 2011, Terrelle Pryor announced that he also was withdrawing from OSU.

As speculation concerning Pryor’s future increased following his June 7 announcement, Pryor hired Drew Rosenhaus—an NFL agent who is infamous for his brazen aggressiveness—and together, they conceivably planned the absolute farce that occurred on June 14, 2007.  Reminiscent of the scene from Sunset Boulevard when Norma Desmond pronounces, “all right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up,” Pryor’s and Rosenhaus’ press conference on June 14 did absolutely nothing to bolster or buoy Pryor’s image—or as most NFL teams refer to it, strengthen his character.

In a red polo, oddly resembling the color previously worn by Terrelle on football Saturdays, Pryor sat before the media and exclaimed:

“I say sorry to all the Buckeye nation and all the Buckeye fans across the country…  I never meant to hurt anybody directly or indirectly with my conduct off the field and I am truly sorry.” 

As for his feelings towards his former coach and mentor Jim Tressel, Pryor opined:

“In terms of coach Jim Tressel, a special shoutout.  I’m sorry for what all went down and I apologize with all my heart.  I love you just like a father.  You taught me a lot and I apologize for putting you in a situation and taking you out of a job and place that you loved.”

And after 97 seconds of Terrelle pouring his “heart” out on the table, he was done.  Rosenhaus stepped in and wrapped up the press conference with a six-minute marketing presentation to the NFL.  As if he was selling a ketchup packet to a lady wearing white gloves, he boasted:

“[Terrelle] is very sad about what has happened to his college career and Ohio State…  I can tell you that he is extremely, he is responsible for the mistakes that he has made.  He has owned up to that.  There are no excuses here, guys.  No excuses at all.  But the past is now the past for him and we have to move ahead.  There is no point in him looking back.”

Rosenhaus further projected that Pryor will be a first-round pick in the supplemental NFL draft this summer, emphasizing that “Terrelle Pryor will be a great—not a good quarterback—a great quarterback in the National Football League…  He is going to be a star.  This experience that he has gone through will galvanize him and make him a better person, a stronger person.”

Finally, in true Rosenhaus fashion, he ended the press conference without fielding a single question from the media: “I think I’ve said it all…  So I’d like to thank everybody for coming.  Guys, we’re going to shut it down right now and I appreciate your time.  Thank you.”

THE DECISION

I genuinely respected Pryor’s initial decision to remain at Ohio State for his senior season.  Every potential NFL quarterback (aka the “field general”) could use a few extra snaps before entering the pros.  In college, there’s no comparison to the fast-paced nature of the NFL game.  Further, despite his accolades and stats as a quarterback, Pryor was a future NFL wide receiver in the eyes of many sports commentators.  Moreover, notwithstanding his physical capabilities, Terrelle had also just displayed to the nation through his repeated violations of the NCAA compliance rules that he had not fully matured into a responsible adult and professional.

That being said, I can also understand Pryor’s rationale for finally deciding to leave OSU after (i) putting up great stats in the former season; (ii) losing his head coach and mentor; and (iii) learning that he would participate in, at most, 7-8 games during the 2011-12 season following his five game suspension.  Thus, I am in full support of Pryor “taking his talents to the NFL” (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).

THE APOLOGY

My absolute disgust with Terrelle Pryor arises from his and Drew Rosenhaus’ version of a nationally televised “apology.”  Now, correct me if I’m wrong.  Maybe Pryor and Rosenhaus never intended for their June 14 press conference to constitute an apology to the Ohio State University and its fans.  I’m actually going to go out on a limb and assume that at least Rosenhaus primarily intended for it to be a tool to market Pryor to potential NFL employers.

Nonetheless, everything about that press conference irked the hell out of me from a total objective point of view.  As if I was their mother, I naturally wanted to grab Rosenhaus and Pryor by their left ears and scold them while pronouncing their full names.  I’ve finally come to the realization that I felt this intense emotion because the Ohio State University and their fans DO deserve a sincere apology from their quarterback as a result of his transgressions.  As the team’s former leader, he should apologize for pouring the program’s future scholarships and post-season play directly down the drain.  Moreover, I’m willing to bet my entire savings—yes, my entire savings—that the NFL teams that were fixated on the television when Pryor conducted his press conference were also hoping and expecting that Pryor would provide a sincere apology to the University and its fans.  From their perspective, an apology represents, among other things, that Pryor has matured from his prior mistakes and now has the strong character most NFL teams look for in a franchise quarterback.

THE CORRECTION

In the future, should you find yourself in Terrelle Pryor’s shoes, here’s a bit of advice concerning press conferences in which you intend to or at least should apologize for your transgressions.  First, wear a suit, guys!  It’s really not that hard to throw on a suit and a tie as if you’re interviewing for a job.   In essence, Terrelle Pryor interviewed with each of the 32 NFL teams on June 14.  Second, prepare, prepare, prepare.  Here, both Pryor and Rosenhaus sounded like bumbling idiots.  If you don’t believe me, just re-read the above transcript and count the number of confusing statements made by both parties.  I lose count each time!  Coming from a litigator, it actually doesn’t appear unprofessional when you use note cards.  Third, apologize to those who are deserving of the apology.  On June 14, Terrelle Pryor primarily apologized to—sorry, gave a “special shoutout” to—his conspirator.  Remember, Tressel is ultimately just as guilty as Pryor in the eyes of the NCAA.  Fourth, hold the apologetic press conferences separate from the press conferences marketing your skills.  Similar to what occurred here, you risk overshadowing the intended apology with a marketing presentation.  Finally, don’t permit your newly hired, highly conflicted, and overly aggressive agent to run the show.  This was Terrelle Pryor’s debut to the World as a professional.  Contrary to what transpired, he should have spoken for 80 percent of the press conference, not his agent.

– NRH


[1] In 2008, as a freshman, Pryor split time with senior Todd Boeckman before taking over the fulltime starting role as quarterback by midseason.

[2] I imagine that all kinds of questions are running through your head regarding the timing of the punishment received by the OSU players.  However, stay tuned next week for my lambasting of the NCAA for its inconsistent enforcement of the compliance rules, particularly in instances that are financially beneficial to the Association.

Don’t Be A Weiner, Learn To Use Your Twitter

It’s no secret that social media, and in particular Twitter, are a great way for athletes and celebrities to connect with fans, promote their work, and be a voice for brands looking for exposure. Under the right circumstances, Twitter can a powerful tool that athletes can use to build their media brand and create an audience. But what’s becoming increasingly apparent is that Twitter is also a dangerous weapon that keeps agents, managers, team presidents and publicists up at night.

One needs to look no further than Rashard Mendenhall, Gilbert Arenas, and of course most recently, Congressman Anthony Weiner, to see how under the wrong circumstances, Twitter can go from asset to disaster. In Rashard Mendhall’s case, some poorly timed and worded tweets on a hot button issue cost him an endorsement deal with Champion. Gilbert Arenas’ decision to live tweet about a bad date he was on will probably end up with a check being written to the NBA league office. And Anthony Weiner, though not an athlete, is the perfect example of what can happen if you don’t probably understand the permanence of what you put into cyberspace. As more and more celebrities, personalities and athletes look to Twitter to build their brand and reach fans, it’s inevitable that we will see more scandals. It’s important that they know how to properly use the medium to their advantage, and what to avoid so they can stay out of Twitter jail.

Here are just a few DOs and DON’Ts that every athlete should consider the next time they choose to express themselves in 140 characters or less.

1. Do engage with your followers. Don’t get dragged into wars of words.

Engaging with fans is the #1 reason why every athlete should be on Twitter. The ability to easily connect with fans is a great way to create an off the field, ice or court persona and to let your fans know what really interests you outside of your sport. Tweeting back and forth with fans is a great way to let them know what you’re up to, and learn more about how they feel about you and your team. However, it is very important to remember that not all people will have nice things to say. The ability to be anonymous means many “fans” will use Twitter as a chance to say some awful things about you. The only thing you can do is IGNORE IT! Getting into a battle of words over Twitter is a path you never want to take. You’ll never win, and you only risk hurting your own image. In short, respond to the positive and ignore the negative.

2. Do share your outside interests. Don’t talk about politics, religion or other sensitive topics

As Rashard Mendenhall recently demonstrated, one or two mis-tweets on hot-button subjects can have very real ramifications. A few poorly worded tweets about Osama Bin Laden’s death ended up costing Rashard an endorsement deal.  Therefore, its important to stay away from potentially controversial topics like politics and religion. There is no upside in making your feelings known on these subjects, and the only possible result is that you alienate fans or sponsors. Even if your intentions are pure, it’s tough to properly express yourself in 140 characters, and things often get misunderstood. Instead, use Twitter as an opportunity to let your fans know about what interests you outside of your sport or field.

3. Do engage with your fellow athletes and friends. Don’t use Twitter for your personal conversations

One of the great things about Twitter is watching athletes and celebrities engage with each other. The tweets back and forth are often humorous and entertaining, and often give us a glimpse into your personal life. But it’s important to make sure the conversation doesn’t become too personal. Cracking jokes about what happened in the locker room is great. Revealing personal information about whereabouts or plans is not a good idea. And just like in real life, sometimes a joke or trash talk can go too far – be careful not to cross that line on Twitter too.

4. Do get involved in contests and giveaways. Don’t fail to deliver on the promises you make

I love to see an athlete engage fans by participating in a giveaway on Twitter. It’s a great way to show fans that you care and it helps build a following. But if you’re going to give something a way (a jersey, picture, tickets, etc.) make sure you can deliver on your promise! All the goodwill you created by creating a contest or giveaway can be washed away in an instant if you fail to live up to your promises. And if you’re giving away an experience that involves coordinating with a location or other people (restaurants, your team, movie theaters, etc.), make sure to clear everything with them first!

5. Do use Twitter as a way to develop relationships with people in other industries you want to know. Don’t continue to build the relationship publicly on Twitter

Just like fans use Twitter to connect with their favorite athletes, Twitter can be a way for you to connect with people in other industries that you want to know. If you’re looking to branch out into music, television, marketing, finances, real estate etc., Twitter is a great way to meet people in these fields. But remember, Twitter is a public forum, so whatever you say can be read by millions of people.  And once you’ve established contact, take the conversation offline.  It’s nobody else’s business what you’re doing to build business opportunities outside of your own industry. 

6. Do use pictures and videos as a way to build your following. Don’t Tweet anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable showing your parents or children

Hearing what an athlete has to say on Twitter is great, experiencing it through video or pictures is even better. Uploading videos and pictures are a great way to expand your Twitter following, and your fans will love to see what you’re up to at that moment. But always remember that once you’ve tweeted something, you can’t get it back. A picture of you at a strip club, or a video of you drunk will live on the internet forever, so think twice before you send something into the Twitterverse. And if you need a reminder, just Google Anthony Weiner and see what happens when a Twitpic goes wrong.

7. Do Tweet about products and services you enjoy using. Don’t trash those products or services you don’t like

Even if you’re not at the point where you are getting paid to endorse for companies on Twitter, it doesn’t mean you can’t tweet about or at products you like. It’s a great way to get on their radar for future endorsement opportunities. If they have a smart pr/marketing team running their Twitter account, they’ll take notice of who you are and hopefully try to work out a deal for some publicity. At the very least, you may get some free products! However, be very careful when trashing products you don’t like. Many of these companies sponsor teams, radio stations, and television networks. One critical tweet can sour a relationship, and you never know when you may need that brand in your corner.

8. Do link to articles, tweets and pictures you like. Don’t fill your timeline with junk

The reason people follow you on Twitter is because they want to know what you’re interested in. If you see an article you enjoyed, a video you liked, or a tweet you found funny, you should share it with your followers.  However, nobody wants to follow someone who fills their timeline with tweets, articles, and pictures all the time. It’s better to choose which things are most interesting to you and include those in your tweets. You’ll also find that more people pay attention to what you have to say and share when you’re selective with your links and thoughts.

9.  Do follow others. Don’t follow too many 

The Twitter experience for an athlete or a celebrity is different from that of most users since most public personalities only use Twitter to build their own audience.  But Twitter is a great way to educate yourself on a variety of topics, and stay up to date on breaking news.  The only way you can do that is to follow those whose opinions and ideas are important to you.  Like any Twitter user, if you choose to follow too many people, or the wrong people, your timeline will be tough to manage and you won’t be able to focus on the information that is important to you.   Instead, find make it a point to see who other people you respect are following, and do the same.  Chances are you’ll learn something.

10.  Do use Twitter as a creative outlet to express yourself.  DO remember it is permanent

The most important thing to remember when using Twitter is that it is permanent.  So permanent that the Library of Congress actually catalogs every tweet.  So whether you’re interacting with fans, uploading a video or picture, or talking about your favorite restaurant, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, remember that once you hit send, you can’t take it back.  Even though a quick deletion may result in the removal of the tweet from your news feed, if its controversial, you can bet that one of your followers will have already made a screen grab of the tweet and forwarded it to a well read blog.  It happens every time.  So make sure you’re not offending anyone, not attaching the wrong video or picture, and are properly replying, retweeting, or using a direct message (if appropriate).  If you don’t make sure, you can be certain that the internet will let you know very quickly.

Why We Still Hate Lebron

It’s been almost 11 months since Lebron James made his ill-fated “decision” on national television where he broke the hearts of Cleveland, disgusted most die-hard NBA fans, and forever put an asterisk on his legacy.  While many, including Lebron apparently, thought those sentiments would just blow over eventually, clearly they have not.  With his team just two wins away from the NBA title one might expect that much of the anger and hatred towards the King would have subsided.  But if Twitter posts, Q ratings, and sports talk radio are the barometers, there’s just as much hatred for Lebron as there was last July, perhaps even more.  That’s unusual for an athlete who is the best in his sport who is playing an integral role in his teams’ path to the championship.  So what is he doing wrong?  And can he fix it?

THE DECISION

Without question, the taste of The Decision still does not sit well with most fans outside of South Florida.  Although the self aggrandizing hour long charade on ESPN and the spurning of Cleveland garnered much of the headlines, it wouldn’t have all been so objectionable had we really believed that there was a “Decision” to be made.  Brett Favre has had more press conferences than the President and contrary to popular belief, Lebron wasn’t the first guy to leave a team for a chance to win a title – Shaq did the same thing when he left Orlando for LA. What still stings is the fact that we as fans were duped into thinking that Lebron actually considered the Bulls, the Knicks or staying in Cleveland.  As more reports came out that it was clear Lebron, Wade and Bosh put this in motion almost two years prior, we as fans felt ridiculous for spending so much time and energy on the Lebron sweepstakes.  It’s one thing to pull a fast one on other owners, but heaven help the athlete or celebrity who purposely misleads the public.

Worse, while Lebron has admitted that The Decision was a mistake, he still hasn’t made a full mea culpa.  While it might be a case of too little too late, a public apology for leading fans on and acknowledging what we all know – that he and Wade and Bosh were teaming up no matter what – would go a long way to repairing his image.

ON COURT ANTICS

But it’s not just the decision that irks many about Lebron.  His on the court gloating and preening do not resonate with a generation of fans that I grew up with.   As a Michigan native, my idols growing up were Barry Sanders, Steve Yzerman and Joe Dumars – guys who always looked like they had been there before, and never would have considered showing up an opponent publicly.  Now I’m not naïve enough to think that sports still operate the way they did in the 80’s and 90’s – celebrations, trash talk, etc. are all part of the game.  But there is something that doesn’t sit right with the best player in the world (and let’s be clear, that’s what Lebron is), celebrating like he’s the 12th guy on a college basketball team who scored his first point on an alley-oop.  When you’re as good as Lebron is, EVERYTHING you do on the court should be expected.  I’m not saying he shouldn’t celebrate the big moments, but let’s make sure they are the big moments.  A last second 3 pointer to close-out a 7 game series counts; a breakaway dunk to extend a lead to 12 does not.    Part of Jordan’s greatness is that he always expected to make the shot, be the guy, and win the game.  And while he certainly celebrated when he won, he knew when it mattered and when it didn’t.  Lebron still doesn’t get what’s worth celebrating.  And if you need any evidence, the way in which he acted after the Heat took out the Celtics in the second round is a perfect example.

While we’re on the topic of Lebron’s on-court demeanor, I’d like to remind Lebron that he is capable of fouling another player, getting a shot blocked without being fouled, and traveling.  From the way he responds when a ref doesn’t give him the call he likes, you’d think they’d slept with his mother (too soon?).  Lebron’s incredulous response to almost every whistle that doesn’t go his way is another reason nobody north of Fort Lauderdale is rooting for him.  I’m not saying Lebron shouldn’t get the star treatment when it comes to calls – that’s par for the course when it comes to the NBA.  And he has every right to work the refs from time to time.  But every time a call goes against Lebron, you can be sure that the next shot on-camera will be Lebron with his hands on his head, a confused look on his face, and a half smile/half scowl hidden by his mouth-guard.  Even the best players make mistakes, but from watching Lebron you’d never think he is fallible.  All eyes are going to be on Lebron no matter what, he doesn’t need to do things to draw extra attention to himself, especially when he’s acting like a pouting teenager.

WE NEED A MOMENT

When an athlete makes the leap from great to immortal, it usually involves a signature moment that is seared into our minds for eternity.  Those moments usually lead to championships, and together, they create a memory.  And even if that player is unlikeable as a person, if the moment is awe-inspiring, we will let our grudge go to acknowledge what has been accomplished.  When it comes to basketball, Jordan had his hand changing layup over the Lakers and his shoulder shrug against the Blazers, Magic had his baby hook, and Bird had his steal.   Lebron had his 48 point game to take out the Pistons in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, but without the title, it didn’t make the leap to iconic status.  Maybe it’s a last second jumper, or an incredible 4th quarter outburst, but Lebron needs to find his moment en route to a championship.  Do that and even his most ardent critics will have to be silenced, and may even be forced to sing his praises.

LET YOUR GUARD DOWN

If Lebron is fortunate enough to have his “moment” this week or next, let’s hope he follows it by letting us peak behind the curtain and see the real Lebron, instead of the protected image he’s had since he was the anointed one at age 16.  Remember, Lebron was the first high school star that garnered real television ratings while he was still in high school, and unlike most young phenoms, he’s actually lived up to the hype.  But the downside to that is that Lebron has been in the spotlight since he was a junior in high school.  He’s learned to carefully craft an image of who he is, or more likely, who he thinks he should be.  He is notorious for his inner circle of friends from Akron who both manage his life and his career.  They protect him, promote him, and surround him.  And sadly, that’s led to a corporate image of an athlete we don’t really know.  Almost everything about Lebron seems contrived or staged, and nothing seems genuine.  In the age of media access we live in, it’s almost shocking that nobody really knows the real Lebron.  I can’t entirely blame him, as I’m sure he learned at a young age that his talents were special, and that he needed to be concerned about people looking to take advantage of him.   But that wall he puts up to protect himself also isolates him from the fans and the media.  He’s never standoffish, but he rarely seems friendly or willing to share what he really thinks.  Lebron doesn’t have to be an open book, but even if people don’t agree with what you think, they’ll like you more if you have the guts to say it, and defend it.  Instead of telling people what he thinks they want to hear, Lebron needs to take down his wall and tell the world what he really thinks.

If the title doesn’t happen for him this year, it will happen for him soon.  He’s too good for it not to.  But winning a title by itself won’t give him the image he wants, and it won’t make people like him.  That’s going to take some work on the court, and off.  If Lebron is willing to make some fundamental changes to his approach, he can have it all.  Otherwise, he may end up being the best player in the league with the least amount of fans.

McNabb’s Inability To Defend The Jab

Bernard Hopkins, winner by knockout!

Donovan McNabb, down for the count!

Bernard Hopkins is ignorant, plain and simple.  He also is more than willing to express his ignorance whenever the media provides him an opportunity to do so.   Based on my observation, Hopkins does not behave ignorantly solely to promote his boxing career.  His win-loss record sufficiently speaks for and promotes itself.  Rather, Hopkins’ ignorance is the direct result of what most people would not hypothesize: a sheltered upbringing.  Bernard Hopkins (aka “the black rocky”) experienced the first nine years of his life as one of eight children in a household residing in Northern Philadelphia’s Raymond Rosen Project Complex.  By age 22, Hopkins had been stabbed three times, committed several muggings, and served five years in prison following his commission of nine felonies.  During his time in the penitentiary, Hopkins witnessed an inordinate amount of violence and thus acknowledges that his tumultuous childhood and young adulthood made him who he is today––a ruthless fighter, who has consistently performed at an extreme level of intensity, even at the ripe age of forty-six.

Considering that Hopkins experienced such an atypical childhood and early adulthood surrounded by violence, poverty, and fellow prisoners, I admire him for becoming who he is today—a successful lightweight and middle weight fighter with 52 wins (34 by knockout).   Most recently on May 21, 2011 (at age 46), Hopkins defeated 28 year old Jean Pascal to capture the WBC, IBO and The Ring Light Heavyweight belts, dethroning George Foreman as the oldest man to win a major title.  Hopkins is a husband.  He is a father.  Simply put, Hopkins has come a long way in his forty-six years on earth.

Nonetheless, on May 11, 2011, possibly as a way of promoting his upcoming fight with Pascal, Hopkins—a loyal Eagles fan—verbally lambasted former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb through a scathing rant to the Philadelphia Inquirer.  While acknowledging that McNabb had a privileged childhood, particularly in comparison to his own, Hopkins accused McNabb of not being “black enough or tough enough, at least compared with, say, himself, Michael Vick and Terrell Owens.”  Hopkins clarified to the Inquirer that “Vick and Owens remained true to their roots, McNabb did not.”   Hopkins further compared McNabb’s role with the Eagles as that of a house-slave who was spared from having to work in the field: “McNabb is the guy in the house, while everybody else is on the field.  He’s the one who got the extra coat.  The extra servings…  He thought he was one of them.”  With respect to McNabb’s prior comments on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” where he stated it is tough being a black quarterback, Hopkins opined, “He goes on HBO and talks about [being] black.  He was right, but was the wrong messenger…  [he doesn’t] represent that.”  Finally, Hopkins criticized McNabb’s interaction with the Eagles’ front office, stating, “T.O. got [into] the boardroom and saw the way they talked to McNabb.  Come from where he [comes from] – that’s strange to some white people, when a black man speaks…  [W]hen T.O. walks in the boardroom with the Eagles suits, he’s like, what the heck? I aint used to this language.  I’m used to speaking up.”  See Marcus Hayes, Hopkins Still Thinking about McNabb, Philly.com, May 11, 2011.

Now, If based on the aforementioned statements you continue to question whether Bernard Hopkins is ignorant, I can share with you the number to a great therapist and sensitivity coach who would welcome you with open arms.  As a fellow African American, it is quite simple for me to wrap my hands around Hopkins’ rant, which was both ignorant and inaccurate.  In fact, Hopkins created a crystal clear characterization of what he considers an African American male in America to represent (the “Hopkins’ Traits”):

1)   Someone who is tough, primarily as a result of his experiences in the “streets”;

2)   Someone who doesn’t relish his interaction with corporate white America;

3)   Someone who is incapable of fully understanding or speaking the language of corporate white America; and

4)   Someone who is confrontational.

But, you know what?  I can’t blame Bernard Hopkins for his ignorance or for the statements that he made about Donovan McNabb.  It is not his fault that he’s made these inaccurate assumptions about the average African American male.  In the world that Hopkins grew up, an African American male represented, among other things, the four abovementioned traits.  Moreover, during the small amount of time that Hopkins has been a wealthy boxer, he likely has not encountered the necessary experiences to contradict these erroneous assumptions.  He has not been exposed to or met enough successful, professional African American males who make a living outside the realm of sports, entertainment, and crime.  He also likely has not been mentored by individuals who know that African American males are as professionally, fiscally, and socially diverse as any other race.  Hopkins’ perception clearly embodies what he has been exposed to.  As a result, I SLAM my enormous hammer of criticism on Donovan McNabb—the one person who you likely didn’t foresee me criticizing in this article.

* * *

In stark contrast to Bernard Hopkins, Donovan McNabb spent the first eight years of his life in a somewhat dicey part of the South Side of Chicago, before moving with his family at age eight to a smaller and more family oriented, blue-collar neighborhood in the southern Chicago suburb of Dolton.  The McNabbs were the first black family to join their neighborhood block, which came as  a shock to both the neighborhood and the McNabbs at the outset.  Nonetheless, both groups eventually adapted well to the newfound diversity.  Similarly, Donovan experienced a good family life.  His father, an electrical engineer, impressed upon his children the value of hard work, doing the right thing, and staying goal oriented.  Donovan’s mother, a nurse, was always there to listen and help her children work through life’s issues.

Donovan eventually attended and excelled in football and basketball at Chicago’s private, all male, Roman Catholic Mount Carmel High School.  With an annual tuition of $8,250, Mount Carmel prides itself for both its athletic and academic excellence and has been recognized as a Blue Ribbon and National Exemplary school.  Indeed, the school’s slogan boasts, “you came to Carmel as a boy.  If you care to struggle and work at it, you will leave as a man.”  As many of you know, prior to being drafted second by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999, Donovan had an exceptional three-year football career as the quarterback for the Syracuse Orangemen.  What many of you probably do not know is that Donovan chose Syracuse over a number of other excellent football programs for its communications department (which is nationally ranked among the top 20).  He had future aspirations of being a sports broadcaster.

* * *

I take issue with Donovan McNabb in several respects.  First, Hopkins’ rant does not represent the first time that an individual has disparaged McNabb concerning his role as the quarterback of the Eagles and Donovan has not subsequently defended himself.  In September 2003—the year that the Eagles went 14-3 and lost to the Panthers in the NFC Championship game—Rush Limbaugh criticized the media and the National Football League for providing an overrated evaluation of McNabb as a quarterback:

“I don’t think he’s been that good from the get go.  I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL.  I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well…  He got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he really didn’t deserve.”

Similar to Hopkins’ rant, Rush’s statements regarding McNabb were racially driven.  And what did McNabb say in response to this statement?  Essentially, nothing:

“I know I played badly the first two games…  He said what he said…  I’m sure he’s not the only one that feels that way but it’s somewhat shocking to actually hear that on national TV…  An apology would do no good because he obviously thought about it before he said it.”

Hello?  Donovan, by 2003, you had completed only four seasons as the star quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, yet, you had passed for a total of 9,835 yards, thrown for a total of 71 touchdowns, rushed for a total of 1,884 yards, and run for a total of 14 touchdowns.  I think it’s fair to say Donovan had a reason and the justification to defend himself against Rush’s remarks.  Nonetheless, he took the criticism and remained quiet.  His career continued to flourish but it certainly left a blemish on his professional image.  It sent the message to both his fans and his critics that I’m passive, I’m soft, and I may be incapable of being a leader.

Fast-forward to May 2011, where Donovan once again failed to respond to Hopkins’ disparaging remarks regarding his role as an African American quarterback in the NFL.  Indeed, via his publicist, he refused to even issue a comment.  Now, I get it, Donovan.  You theorize that there’s no need to respond to such ignorant remarks because everyone knows that the substance of the statements are inaccurate and not worthy of your attention.  Got it.  However, McNabb actually is the perfect person in the perfect position to issue a response to these remarks.  He is a famous, professional African American (some might say, even a role model) who understands that African American males can excel in this Country while not representing the Hopkins’ Traits.  Essentially, McNabb was given the perfect platform to speak from and convey this point to me, you, and every African American child in the hood searching for inspiration.  However, he did not speak!

In sum, Donovan is a GREAT person, but he has consistently tarnished his image, not by behaving inappropriately, but by being so darn passive.  Moreover, from my vantage point as a 29-year-old African American male, he has failed as a leader and as a role model.  He certainly entered Mount Carmel “as a boy,” but sometimes he compels me to wonder whether he actually left “as a man.”  Should you wish to be a leader and a role model, my advice to you, Donovan—take it or leave it—is the following:

1)   Always issue a statement in response to criticism from your peers, even if it consists of a short and concise acknowledgement that “everyone is entitled to their own opinion but you beg to differ with respect to [fill in the blank].”  A simple responsive statement illustrates, among other things, that you are aware of what has been said, are strong enough to respond to your critics, but understand when it’s not worth bickering over trivial issues.  Note, a statement should be issued by you, not your agent.

2)   Be proactive.  Criticism should never be your sole basis for issuing public statements.  At the very least, compel your publicist to make statements regarding causes you support (e.g., the fight against diabetes).  Unfortunately, your professional image could use a little boost.

3)   Take pride in your ability to positively influence those around you, particularly African American youth who have had limited exposure to strong African American male figures.

– NRH

Your Image Is Never Above The Law

The Justice System can be swift and unforgiving.

I recently published the following article on a website that caters to aspiring professional basketball players and college/NBA recruiters:

An unknown author once wrote, “remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions.  You may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard-boiled egg.”  This statement is quite powerful.  It reminds us that one’s actions, not mere intentions, are everything.  This statement is particularly true when your image is a brand and ultimately your source of income.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not, and never will be, an exceptionally talented athlete who plays a professional sport for a living.  In fact, I do what some people consider to be quite boring.  I am the quintessential “corporate desk jockey.”  At age 29, I practice law as a corporate litigator in New York City, suing companies and white-collar professionals on a daily basis.  As a result, I know and understand four critical things: (i) the power of money; (ii) what it is like to be a young professional; (iii) that one bad decision can translate into a courtroom appearance; and (iv) how quickly such an appearance can strip a professional of his career.  Accordingly, in this article, I will highlight certain legal factors every young professional athlete should consider in cultivating a positive image.

The Power of Money

In most cultures, money, at least in part, is a symbol of power.  With the right bank account, the World becomes your oyster.  I can recall thinking to myself as a kid (and every now and then as an adult), “what would I do if I won the lottery?”  Instantly, a million answers leapt into my head: I would spin a globe like Prince Akeem and randomly select a destination; I would fulfill each one of my need-for-speed desires by purchasing several European made sports cars; I would purchase a home in each of my favorite cities; and most importantly, I would not think twice about my actions, because why should I, I’m a millionaire, right?!?

In contrast to my delusions of lottery grandeur, sixty men actually win the “NBA lottery” each June, gaining the right to play for 1 of 30 National Basketball Association teams.  Last year’s average first-year salary for an NBA rookie drafted in the first round amounted to just under $1.7 million.  This number does not take into account the first-year endorsement money reaped by certain uniquely talented rookies.  Thus, in addition to the pressure of performing up to huge expectations on the court, NBA rookie players are given the daunting task of managing their lives off the court as newfound millionaires.  Recently, too many young professional athletes have squandered such money not because they purchased expensive cars and lavish homes, but because they miscalculated the legal ramifications of their actions.  Indeed, what these athletes didn’t realize is that their image is never above the law.  Notwithstanding O.J. Simpson’s success with the late, great Johnnie Cochran at his side, fortunately you can never buy your way out of a confrontation with the U.S. Justice System.  Moreover, a legal confrontation can arise at the blink of an eye, while tarnishing your image in an even shorter period of time.

The Young Professional

The definition of the young professional is quite expansive these days.  In an era where one of the most talented rap stars of all time is as successful in business at age 41 as he was with music at age 26, the professional title is no longer limited to those individuals associated with law, medicine, big-business or Wall Street.  The professional constitutes anyone from an athlete/entertainer to the Chief Executive Officer of a large corporation.

In carrying the professional title, one must accommodate the baggage that comes along with it, including the responsibility of making sound decisions.  Importantly, one’s inattention to this responsibility can amount to professional suicide.  For instance, over the past four years, the following group of professionals has consistently been the target of criticism and negative attention from the government, the media, and the average citizen: the Wall Street and corporate tycoons.  Understandably, a negative aura has followed this group of professionals because many of their most wealthy figures contributed to the demise of the U.S. economy (cough, cough…Bernard Madoff…cough).  I won’t bore you with the details, but, as you probably know, their reckless deeds did not go unpunished.  In fact, I can’t count on two hands the number of corporate executives, wealth managers or professional investors who have been recently fined and/or served jail time as a result of their violations of the U.S. securities laws and regulations.  Many, if not most of them, never anticipated that one bad decision would lead them down a path of fraud and deceit, and the eventual loss of their professional reputation and ability to earn a living.  At the end of the day, many of these white-collar criminals were stripped of their professions because of their greed and a complete disregard for anything other than making money.

So, you might be wondering, “where is he going with this?  I’m an up-and-coming professional athlete, not an executive capable of violating the U.S. securities laws.”  My point is simple; money can similarly cause the young professional athlete to lose sight of the most critical responsibility accompanying the title: maintaining a squeaky-clean image.

A Legal Confrontation Can Arise At The Blink of An Eye

As a male in my late twenties, I am certainly capable of making the occasional bad decision.  I’ll provide an example that all of us have either been in or seen played out on television: you decide to meet a friend at a crowded and chaotic bar.  While you’re attempting to grab a drink, a drunken guy bumps into you, spilling his beverage all over your crisp, new outfit.  To make things worse, the guy fails to acknowledge his wrong, giving you a look as if he’s owed an apology.  The two of you exchange a couple of unpleasant words, and eventually, you find yourself laying a hand on the guy, escalating the situation to a level further than it should have ever reached.

Here’s a second example: you meet an attractive young lady while you’re out with a few friends.  One thing leads to another, and she comes back to your home later that night.  You two have sex, and she departs the next morning before you even get an opportunity to learn more than her first name.  To your surprise, the young lady is 15 years old.  You’re 23.

I’ll provide a third and final example: a friend who you’ve known for almost your entire life presents an idea to you.  He recently learned that a well-off acquaintance of his stores large quantities of alcohol in his home.  He proposes that you provide him a ride to the acquaintance’s home, where he will gain entrance into the residence and take a couple bottles of alcohol for you all to share.  He promises that the acquaintance won’t even realize that such a small quantity of alcohol is missing.  He additionally assures you that if anything goes wrong, you’ll be okay because “giving him a ride doesn’t constitute a crime.”  You two go through with the plan and subsequently share the alcohol your friend procures.

Let’s dissect the former examples.  With respect to the first one, where did you go wrong?  Well, if you are, or soon will be, an NBA player, there are a number of appropriate answers to this question, for instance:

1)    If it’s during the NBA season, maybe the better decision would have been to stay at home and rest;

2)    You shouldn’t surround yourself with friends who regularly hangout in such environments;

3)    You should have immediately walked away from the situation, exiting the bar; or

4)    You should have hired professionals to accompany you and guard against such confrontations.

Now, these answers were likely obvious to many of you.  However, let me ask a much tougher question: do you know the possible legal ramifications of your actions in example one?  Unfortunately, a majority of you probably does not know the following answer to the question: common law battery constitutes an unlawful application of force to another, resulting in either bodily injury or an offensive touching.[1]  In many jurisdictions, merely laying a hand on another person rises to the level of offensive touching.  Moreover, battery is a general intent crime, meaning in order to be charged with or potentially convicted of the crime, you must only intend to act, not cause a specific result.  Therefore, in the first example, even if you only intended to lightly touch the other guy, if he reasonably felt offended or harmed by it, you could find yourself arrested and eventually inside a courtroom.

Let’s keep it moving.  With respect to the second example, the obvious answer as to where you went wrong is that you failed to actually learn anything substantive about your sexual partner.  What you may not know is that in New York State (and in many other U.S. States), a person under 17 years of age is legally incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse or other sexual contact.  Thus, in many jurisdictions, example two constitutes a statutory rape violation.  Because statutory rape is a strict liability crime, your ignorance regarding the woman’s age is irrelevant.  In other words, a court of law will not even address your state of mind in determining whether you committed the crime.

The third and final example unfortunately occurs too often.  Many people are ignorant to the fact that minimally aiding someone who commits a crime will get them in just as much trouble as the person who committed the crime.  Here, you were an accomplice to your friend’s burglary of the acquaintance’s home.  Burglary in New York and most U.S. States constitutes entering or remaining unlawfully in a building with the intent to commit a crime therein.  The crime that your friend intended to, and did eventually, commit is larceny, which, in its common law form, is a trespassory (wrongful and without permission) taking and carrying away of personal property of another with the intent of permanently depriving the owner.  Accomplice liability arises when a person intentionally aids or encourages another person in the commission of a crime.  The accomplice must actually intend that the crime occur.  In most jurisdictions, merely driving one to and/or from the scene of a crime rises to the level of accomplice liability.  Further, the Court typically finds the accomplice guilty of any crime the principle is guilty of committing.  Thus, in this example, a court of law likely would find you guilty of burglary, where it also convicts your friend of the crime.

A Day In Court Amounts To More Than A Day of Lost Wages

I provide the foregoing examples as proof that certain intentions, seeming so innocent, can effortlessly translate into imperfect actions.  For certain lucky individuals, these actions will be excused by present and/or future employers.  However, the professional athlete is rarely so lucky.  Professional athletes are akin to executive officers of a corporation; once the board of directors and shareholders (i.e., league commissioner, front office and fans) lose all of the confidence they once had in their leaders, the six to seven figure salaries dry up.  For instance, several prominent athletes have recently squandered guaranteed wages as a result of reasonably avoidable damage to their image:

Professional Athlete

Lost Wages

Tiger Woods As of July 2010, his endorsement deals had declined from $92 million to $70 million, including lost contracts with Gatorade, Accenture and AT&T.
Michael Vick As of August 2007, it was estimated that he would lose $100 million as a result of lost future salary, potential repayment of bonuses to the Falcons for defaulting on his contract, and endorsement money drying up.
Kobe Bryant He lost endorsement contracts with McDonalds, Nutella, and Coca-Cola, amounting to between $4 and $6 million of lost income.
Latrell Sprewell He lost the remaining three years of a four-year $32 million contract with the Golden State Warriors and a $500k-$700k per year endorsement contract with Converse.
O.J. Simpson He lost a $2.5 million per year endorsement contract with Hertz, his NFL commentary job with NBC, and his future appearances in the Naked Gun movie series.

Naturally, the question arises, what can future athletes do to avoid this dilemma?  First, at an early age, a person who intends to pursue a career in professional sports should be mindful of how his actions can adversely affect his image.  Second, he must realize that notwithstanding all of his hard work and the large player/endorsement contracts accompanying it, he has not earned the privilege to ignore the potential negative ramifications of his actions.  Third, he must seek out mentors who have been where he is going, as there’s plenty of truth to the old adage, “you are who you surround yourself with.”

– NRH


[1] Offensive touching loosely constitutes contact that a person of ordinary sensitivity would not permit.