Tiger Woods, professional golfer
|Tiger Woods, immediately after bombarded |
by gamma radiation.
Moral misstep: slept with a woman who was not his wife, and then—having decided that that was pretty awesome—went on to sleep with five, nine, eleven, or 121 others, depending on which disgusting internet source you choose to believe.
Marketability: while his popularity may not be what it once was,1 he’s still a well-known and much-discussed athlete in what is inexplicably one of the world’s most popular sports. While he’s not playing up to his usual standards of late, he has the potential to continue to golf at a very high level for the next five to twenty-five years, making him a huge boon for any company with the right amount of moral fiber to stick with him through a few thousand minor marital indiscretions.
Nike’s stance: Everything’s swell. The Tiger Woods Center at Nike’s headquarters remains, as you may have guessed, named after Tiger Woods.
Kobe Bryant, shooting guard, Los Angeles Lakers (NBA)
|Kobe Bryant, having briefly forgotten that the name |
that matters to him is the one on the back of the jersey.
Moral misstep: accused of rape by nineteen-year-old Katelyn Faber; while the charges were dropped after Faber refused to testify, Bryant later publicly stated that while he “truly believe[s] this encounter . . . was consensual,” he “now understand[s] how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.” So viewed in the best possible light, he had sex with a woman who was not his wife. Given the competition in this category, one single adulterous affair seems positively quaint, but it’s still not a particularly decent thing to do.
Marketability: remains active as the most popular player on the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the NBA’s most popular teams, with potential to make Nike oodles of money for at least another four to six years.
Nike’s stance: no problems here.
Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL)
Moral misstep: accused of sexual assault in 2008; no charges filed. Accused of sexual assault in 2010; no charges filed. After the second accusation, he served four games of a six-game suspension and lost his Fathead endorsement. A spokesman for the company stated at the time, “We named our company Fathead, not Fat Asshole.”2
Marketability: Two-time super Bowl champion, marquee quarterback on one of the absurdly popular and marketable NFL’s most popular and marketable teams. While his career may not last more than another five to six years or two to three allegations, even mediocre players and backups sell jerseys.
Nike’s stance: Are we under oath, here? No? Then what he may have done would have been bad, and we’re definitely going to cut him loose any day now. Honest.
Lance Armstrong: cyclist, seven-time Tour de France winner
|Have you ever spent a lifetime sitting on a bicycle |
seat? Trust us, you’d look this grouchy too.
Moral Misstep: despite his repeated and strenuous statements to the contrary, Lance Armstrong may well turn out to have been something of a cheater in the otherwise squeaky-clean world of competitive cycling. He joins the very brief list of cyclists who have tested positive, admitted to doping, or been sanctioned for doping that includes—and is absolutely, almost definitely, probably limited to—barely-known racers such as Marco Pantani, Jan Ullrich, Roland Meier, Alex Zuille, Laurent Dufaux, Abraham Olano, Richard Virenque, Bjarne Riis, Christophe Moreau, Roberto Heras, Richard Virenque, Francisco Mancebo, Igor González, Óscar Sevilla, Raimondas Rumsas, Levi Leipheimer, Alexandre Vinokourov, Iban Mayo, Ivan Basso, Michael Rasmussen, Floyd Landis, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Mikel Astarloza, Bernhard Kohl, Christian Vande Velde, Fränk Schleck, Tadej Valjavec, and Tyler Hamilton.3
Marketability: one of the best-known figures in the world when it comes to providing emotional, physical, and financial support to survivors of cancer, a disease that has to some degree, directly or indirectly, affected pretty much every person on Earth. Ever. On the other hand, he’s retired, and he participated in a sport that nobody in Nike’s U.S. demographic gave a shit about before Lance Armstrong came along.
Nike’s stance: Screw you, Lance Armstrong.
In the past, Nike has cut ties with sports figures such as Marion Jones (for her alleged and later admitted use of performance-enhancing drugs), the late Joe Paterno (who, of course, technically didn’t do anything but also, of course, didn’t do anything), and Michael Vick (who was coincidentally reinstated with Nike once he’d become popular again).
We’re not going to say that Nike should have maintained its ties with Lance Armstrong, regardless of whether the doping charges against him were (or are) ever proved or definitively disproved—that’s completely up to them. And we’re not saying that Armstrong’s admirable work with his foundation gives him a pass if he is, in fact, a big fat blood doper—although this raises the interesting question of whether it’s better to be a great guy in your sport but a turd in your personal life, or the reverse.
We’re simply a little disappointed that the message we’re all getting from Nike here seems to be “if you’re gonna get caught cheating, it’d better be on your wife.”4
1. Except perhaps in the limited circles in which he was always apparently popular—after all, ladies, he’s single now. Rawr.
2. No, of course we made that up.
3. The part about these guys being “barely known” is just us being sarcastic. While we recognize only a handful of their names, all of them have finished in the top ten of the Tour de France at least once in the last fifteen years.
4. We realize that Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t fit the “cheater” theme here, as he was not married when he was accused of sexual assault. Twice. He does, however, still have a valid place in this piece, thanks to its overarching theme of “pro athletes who are definitely or at least probably dicks.”