Sports Lawyer comments on Personal Responsibility of Professional Athletes
As my first posting in this blog, I expect many entries to, in some way, address the subject of personal responsibility for professional athletes. Professional football players are paid to perform at the highest level and don’t get drafted or signed because they are simply nice people. Professional basketball players similarly make or do not make an NBA team, based on their ability to play. Baseball players make a ball club based on their ability to contribute to a Major League baseball team. These concepts are obvious, however playing ability will get an athlete only so far in his or her career.
In a recent issue of the Sports Business Journal, it was reported that during the last year, several high-profile professional athletes lost sponsorships due to their behavior “off of the field”. In late 2009, AT&T, Accenture, Gatorade and Buick all dropped Tiger Woods as sponsors after the story of his extra-marital affairs broke. A few months later, in January 2010, Adidas pulled its endorsement of NBA player Gilbert Arenas after he pled guilty to a felony gun charge. In April of 2010, two-time Super Bowl Champion Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lost sponsorships after the story broke regarding his encounter with a young college student, which became the subject of a criminal investigation. NFL great, Lawrence Taylor, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999, lost a sponsorship with Nutrisystem after he was arrested on rape charges.
Whether it is during a professional athlete’s career, or after their retirement, there is value in the image of that player in the business world. The sooner professional athletes, particularly high-profile athletes, recognize that this image can be as valuable to their career as maintaining their physical condition, for example, the sooner those athletes will be able to plan for their future. With proper foresight and guidance, an athlete can protect the career they’ve worked so hard to achieve, as well as protect and grow their financial interests.