As I woke up this morning and scheduled my Thanksgiving day, which included determining whether to eat breakfast or maintain an empty stomach for dinner, whether I, at age 30, could muster up enough confidence to ask my mother if I could eat dinner while watching football, and whether I could feasibly touch base with all of my friends and family on this holiday, it hit me! In the illustrious words of John F. Kennedy, on Thanksgiving, “as we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Now, as I sit before my Parents’ “only in America must I purchase this size” television and watch the first of three NFL games scheduled for today, I observe individuals who truly live by their words on this Thanksgiving day. First and foremost, I see American soldiers stationed at army bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and a number of other regions who are football fans and watching the same game as me. The NFL has provided a live broadcast of these troops rooting for their respective teams to display its and America’s appreciation for these soldiers and their role in risking their lives while keeping our country safe. While these soldiers put on a happy face via the FOX broadcast, you can’t help but realize that they must maintain at all times in the back of their minds the thought that potential violence is just around the corner, or maybe even just over their shoulder. They are all stationed in violent war zones, yet they live by their promise to this country on Thanksgiving day to protect us so that we can–among other things–enjoy our family and friends, stuff our faces, and overindulge in football, carbohydrates, and discounts on items at stores around the country.
Secondly, I observe well-paid individuals strap on pads and a helmet and spend either their Thanksgiving afternoon or evening entertaining America…and even other parts of the world. Though these football players on average make more money annually than 99.99999% of Americans, they step onto football fields within stadiums and domes around this country and work on Thanksgiving day. They work hard. They are passionate about what they do. As a direct result, football entertains Americans and, in certain instances, permits these individuals to either forget about the fact that they got laid off, lost a family member or friend, or learned that they are ill. Football is a blessing for many on Thanksgiving day, even for our soldiers. As a direct result, NFL players live by their promise to the League and, to a certain extent, this country on Thanksgiving day to entertain us Americans and provide us a sense of joy for at least one day out of the year.
Accordingly, thank you to our soldiers and others who work so hard on Thanksgiving day to permit Americans to be so thankful for everything and everyone around them.
After a week hiatus, we’re happy to bring back this week’s Friday Morning Workout. Plenty of things to get your sports mind going on one of the last Summer Friday’s.
Former NFL QB Jim McMahon is part of a group of former players suing the NFL over concussion related injuries
Terrelle Pryor will be allowed to participate in next week’s NFL Supplemental Draft, but will be suspended for five games. Sounds like Roger Goodell wants to be commish of the NFL and the NCAA.
Proof that the only way to spur the economy is more sports. Forbes examines how Boston is growing because of sports.
I’m only linking NASCAR here because of the Michigan ties. Apparently Pure Michigan is sponsoring a race, and its paying off for them.
The Wilpons will be in court today, trying to get at least part of the $1 billion lawsuit against them dismissed. After this week’s earlier ruling by the 2nd Circuit, it doesn’t look promising.
The New Meadowlands Stadium, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets, is going to be known as MetLife Stadium. MetLife was already a cornerstone sponsor for the stadium, paying about $7M a year. The naming rights deal will cost them somewhere in the neighborhood of $20M a year.
For the doctors and Padres fans out there, a sad story of a star prospect forced into early retirement.
It’s probably not a good idea to invest in sports in Denver. Apparently they can’t even support the franchises they have.
Fox and the UFC reached a groundbreaking deal to put UFC on network TV. F/X will have the cable rights. Boxing better get its act together, because MMA is clearly in the driver’s seat right now.
NBA players looking to go to Europe may have hit a roadblock. Apparently the insurance is very expensive.
And in case you were under a rock, make sure to read this incredible story about the rampant NCAA rule breaking occuring at the University of Miami since 2002.
Celebrity and athlete endorsements are without question some of the most useful marketing tools that a brand can use. The way fans idolize their favorite athletes allows brands to capture those positive feelings by using those athletes to endorse their products. With many products that use athlete endorsers, the suggestion that the average person can jump higher or run faster by using a particular product makes the endorsement all the more powerful.
While there are literally hundreds if not thousands of brands that have partnered with athletes over the years, there are several products and campaigns that have stuck with us through the years. These particular brands managed to use their athlete endorsers to not only help sell products at that moment in time, but to
also create a lasting image that garnered positive feelings for that brand long after that commercial or campaign had been shelved.
Today, we’re going to take a look at a handful of those campaigns, and what common themes they utilized to make their ad campaigns iconic, much like their spokesmen.
MEAN JOE GREEN DRINKS COKE
This commercial debuted during the 1980 Super Bowl, and ever since then, it has ended up near the top of every list of the best Super Bowl commercials ever. Besides using an iconic pitchman like Mean Joe Green, the real key here is the juxtaposition of the tough football player and the young generous boy. The message here is pretty strong – the implication is that drinking a Coke can improve anyone’s mood – as Mean Joe becomes a nice guy after drinking the Coke. While the jingle itself isn’t that catchy, the end catchphrase of “Have a Coke and a Smile” works because it’s easy to remember, and fits into everyday conversations. But what really sells this commercial is the young boy’s reaction when Mean Joe goes from hard-ass football player to a giving soul. His face lights up, and we get the secondary catchphrase, “Thanks Mean Joe!” That’s the lasting image from this commercial – and over 30 years later it still gets replayed every February when everyone is talking about Super Bowl commercials. For that, this campaign ranks among the best ever.
TIGER WOODS GOLF – NIKE
At the end of the millennium, no question existed as to who was the best golfer in the world–Tiger Woods. He was in the process of obliterating the course record at the Masters and was already anointed as the one who would pass Jack Nicklaus, even though he had only won a few majors at that point. Nike had launched its entire golf product line by partnering with Woods, and instantly gained credibility in the market. And while that probably would have happened regardless of their ad campaign, one commercial served as the catalyst for Nike Golf, and Tiger Woods.
Unlike the other campaigns on this list, there was no catchy jingle, no catchphrase, nor any additional celebrities. Instead, it consisted of Tiger Woods bouncing a ball on his golf club without it hitting the ground, using the club to toss the ball into the air, and then taking a half golf swing and crushing the ball into the distance. The message was what we already knew; that there were things Tiger Woods could do on a golf course that nobody else was capable of. The key was that you had to see it to believe it, so people made a point to see it.
The other advantage this campaign had over others was that it happened in the internet era. While YouTube wasn’t in place, this ad and campaign still spread like wildfire. And it’s still a popular view today, with almost 1.8 million hits on YouTube. It’s so popular that the bloopers from that commercial shoot have over 1.1 million views. It’s easily the most popular golf ad ever and certainly ranks in the Top 5 of most powerful sports endorsement campaigns ever too.
ITS GOTTA BE THE SHOES – NIKE AIR JORDAN
While some of the other campaigns Michael Jordan has been involved with may have been more memorable, he’s still best known as the original, and really the only, spokesman for Nike’s Air Jordan Brand. Starting in the mid-80’s, Jordan was synonymous with basketball, dunking, and Nike. While there were many great commercials involving Jordan, the signature campaign included Jordan and a loud, scrawny character named Mars Blackmon, played by rising director and actor Spike Lee.
While Jordan dribbled, shot and dunked, Mars asked Jordan what made him the best basketball player in the world. Jordan never gave a definitive answer, while Mars continually asked what became a rhetorical non-question: “It’s gotta be the shoes?!” And even if nobody really believed that Nike’s shoes made Jordan as good as he was, kids playing basketball across America eagerly pointed to their shoes after a made shot or dunk and repeated the phrase.
In the end, the name Mars Blackmon may have been more popular than the phrase itself, as the new Nike ads with Spike became highly anticipated events themselves. But the combination of Jordan, the phrase and Mars Blackmon is something that every male teen and pre-teen of that era remembers.
BE LIKE MIKE – GATORADE
By 1992, there was no bigger star in sports than Michael Jordan. He was far and away the best player in all of basketball. He had already won his 1st NBA Championship, was well on his way to his 2nd and he was about to lead the Dream Team to a Gold Medal in the 1992 Olympics. Anything he endorsed on or off the basketball court was going to turn to gold too. But Gatorade managed to take the icon to another level with its Be Like Mike ad campaign. The visuals of the commercial itself aren’t anything spectacular – just Jordan doing what Jordan does. But the message couldn’t have been any clearer – if you drink Gatorade, you will BE LIKE MIKE.
The catchphrase itself was enough to create a national word of mouth campaign, but what made this campaign one of the best ever was the jingle written by Bernie Pitzel and composed by Ira Antelis and Steve Shafer. As a 13 year old, I memorized the lyrics, which I still know today. I even bought a CD with the song on it. If iTunes had been around back then, it easily would have moved a million units. The jingle was that popular then, and for those individuals who came of age in the early 90’s, it’s still synonymous with Gatorade.
Sometimes I dream
That he is me
You’ve got to see that’s how I dream to be
I dream I move, I dream I groove
If I could Be Like Mike
Again I try
Just need to fly
For just one day if I could
Be that way
I dream I move
I dream I groove
If I could Be Like Mike
*For the full story on how the Be Like Mike campaign came into existence, check out Darren Rovell’s First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat Into a Cultural Phenomenon.
BO KNOWS – NIKE
Much like the Be Like Mike campaign, Nike’s Bo Knows campaign originated in the early 90’s. It centered around the greatest athlete of his time, Bo Jackson – the superhuman running back and baseball player for the Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Royals. While there were several different commercials associated with the Bo Knows campaign, the most memorable one was probably the Bo Diddley version, which in fact featured Blues legend Bo Diddley.
The concept was creative yet relatively simple – Bo Jackson is a great football player and baseball player, but what else does he “know”? Utilizing athletes and legends from every other major sport, including the likes of Wayne Gretzky and John McEnroe, Nike used celebrities and the catchphrase “Bo Knows” to create a memorable ad campaign. Certainly the presence of other athletes gave
the campaign credibility, but the often repeated phrase of “Bo Knows” is what
sets this ad apart. The icing on the cake was Bo Diddley telling Bo Jackson, “Bo, you don’t know Diddley!”—a phrase that made its way into the American lexicon for several years. It even served as the title of Bo’s autobiography
“Bo Knows Bo”.
Subsequent versions of this campaign featured a similar theme of Bo Jackson, the super athlete, competing in every sport, and even a cameo from Sonny Bono poking fun at the Bo Knows campaign.
In the end, Bo’s injuries and shortened career took him out of the spotlight sooner than expected. But if you mention his name to anyone of the age range 25-40, they will ineveitably make some mention of Bo Knows.
So as a brand looks to partner with an athlete for a national campaign, what kind of lessons can they learn from the Cokes, Gatorades and Nikes of the world?
The first lesson is to secure A+ talent. With the possible exception of Mean Joe Green, the other athletes used were the absolute best at what they did at the time. If you’re trying to convince people to use your product, you have to be able to convince them that the best athletes in the world use your products. And if you have the budget to bring in other celebs or athletes, do it. They don’t have to be the principal endorser, but they’ll help provide that extra oomph.
The second lesson is to find a catchphrase that resonates outside of the commercial. Be Like Mike and Bo Knows caught on not because of the 30 second spot, but because of the two and three word phrases that kids and adults repeated over and over again. Use the athlete’s name, keep it short, and make it repeatable.
The third lesson is to think bigger than the 30 second spot. 3 of the 5 campaigns on this list weren’t one-off advertisements, but rather a series of ads based around the same theme. Mars Blackmon was a running theme for Nike Air that spanned several years. Bo Knows included several ads that all focused on the Bo Knows themes, but were different variations in their own right. Be Like Mike not only served as a jingle for the Gatorade commercial, but it became its own revenue stream when the company began selling the single.
Finally, be original. For instance, (i) the reason the Be Like Mike ad succeeded was because nobody saw it coming from Gatorade; (ii) an acclaimed director/actor playing a central role in a basketball shoe commercial had never been done before Nike did it; (iii) Tiger Woods bouncing a golf ball on his golf club was an unconventional way to show his skill; (iv) Mean Joe Green was one of the first athletes used in a Super Bowl commercial like that; and (v) Bo Knows was one of the first commercials to use several other athletes and celebrities to sell a product primarily marketed by another athlete.
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.
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.
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?!?
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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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.
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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.