Athletes and politics
I really wasn’t going to blog today. I mean it. I was going to take a break and relax. I was going to do a million other things that occupied my time and maybe work on some running projects. Then I sat down to watch ESPN this morning. They had a show on discussing the topic of athletes and politics. The reason being that LeBron James is going to be a major player in a Barak Obama rally. The presenters made a couple of good points. They mentioned that it is the athletes right to defend any cause they feel is right, but they take on risk of alienating fans. They also mentioned that an athlete struggles with this pigeon holing, in which we as fans only consider them as good at one thing. They struggle to define themselves as human beings and therefore will branch out into politics, business, etc.
I say that these are good points, but they really don’t get at the true core of the issue. A professional athlete more than an actor or musician has more of a responsibility to stay out of the political arena. They are paid endorsement deals that help not only themselves, but the team and the league. When you accept endorsement funds, you are becoming a contractual employee of the company. You are responsible for being a face of the organization. You are taking money for a job in which you are essentially a marketing piece for the company. If your company does not agree with your politics, or they fear that you are going to alienate their customers, then they can fire you! They should. If the CEO of a corporation publicly supports a presidential candidate, and the company loses business because of it; that company has the responsibility to fire the CEO. Why should it be any different for any other face of the company?
While I don’t dispute the fact that athletes have the right as everyone else to support their political views, I think that they have other responsibilities as well. I am absolutely positive that the endorsement contracts that they sign have a clause in them about negative image. An athlete that wants to be a political force can be, but they can’t at the same time collect a check, a very large check, from a company that doesn’t share their view. If the sponsoring company has the same politics and is not worried about the portrayal of themselves to their consumer base, then go for it, it is another chance for more exposure. If not, then cut the athlete off, and stop throwing good money after bad decisions.