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THE BIG DOG'S MARKETABILITY: WHAT'S THE EFFECT OF A HOLDOUT?
Published October 21, 1994
DR. CHARLES TUCKER is representing the NBA's No. 1 draft pick, Glenn Robinson, in his current contract stalemate with the Bucks. Robinson is seeking a $100M deal over 13 years. The Bucks have reportedly offered $60M over nine years. Tucker spoke yesterday with THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY on whether Robinson's holdout, and the negative publicity that has accompanied it, could hurt his future marketability. TUCKER: Any time you're in the press, whether it's good or bad, you always stand the opportunity of getting some negative publicity. ... If you get in the type of trouble, like some violent assault, rape, and those kind of problems, that's hard to bounce back from. But just because a person might hold-out or renegotiate, that usually doesn't have a long-term effect. Notice that Glenn doesn't make remarks, he doesn't make a response. If he says something, he says it in a positive manner. So, it'll have some effect, but I don't think it will have a long-term effect. THE DAILY: What kind of deals are you seeking that you think will be best for Glenn? TUCKER: Any deals that have a good image behind them, that's always important -- also deals that help other people along with helping himself. [For example], if he can do a deal with a soft drink, and they can do something in the community, and do something with charity along with him -- if he can do a shoe deal, and they can help him put on some camps or free clinics to get people off the streets and help them in a counseling program. Deals that will help him 40 percent, and maybe help the community 60 percent. ... As long as you're a good people-person in terms of caring and relationships, you've got an avenue to do a lot of things. If you've got a good personality, you usually can fit in. And he does have that caring and warm personality and some sincereness [sic] about what's he doing. THE DAILY: Has Glenn signed on with anyone thus far? TUCKER: We are in the process of doing that. We have a lot of deals that we have put together. I don't want to name them specifically. We are in the process of trying to round out a shoe deal, too. THE DAILY: Have any prospective partners shied away from Glenn over the recent negative press? TUCKER: We actually have added a couple since all this began. In a separate interview yesterday, THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY spoke with STEVEN HERZ for his reactions to the risks Robinson faces in holding out. Herz is a marketing expert, specializing in sports marketing and endorsements deals for athletes and sportscasters for RLR Associates, a sports television firm in New York. HERZ: It's too early to say how it might affect him in the long-term. You have to remember that, prior to Michael Jordan -- which wasn't all that long ago -- almost no athletes would have a chance of being marketed right from the outset, right out of college. So this is a very new phenomenon, where a guy can be marketable before he's ever proven himself on the court. Having said that, in the short-term, I don't see this as something that's going to help him. Companies tend to shy away from what potentially might be some backlash against perceived greed on his part. The public has become somewhat accepting of player salaries, especially in basketball because it is seen as more of a partnership because of the salary cap. But this seems to go beyonds the bounds of even greed, to a new frontier. ... If he comes in at $70 million, then he held out for nothing. And if he comes in at $110 million, there's going to be a backlash -- not only from fans, but also from other players. ... I'd be careful to say that where his marketability will hurt him is in non- basketball categories. If it's a basketball deal -- a shoe deal, an apparel deal -- that may still be OK. The question will be outside of that realm. THE DAILY: Are there companies that aren't afraid of negative publicity or a "bad-boy" image? HERZ: I don't know what's being planned right now, but it's possible Nike has seized the moment on this. [Robinson] certainly has the image. The Big Dog is barking right now. Perhaps someone will try to wag his tail. ... It was Nike that gave [Charles Barkley] his platform. And even Michael Jordan owes a debt of gratitude to Nike for creating the platform which he uses to springboard to become the most marketable athlete of all-time. But if Nike or another big shoe company does not step in there and become a platform for Glenn Robinson, then he may have some trouble in the endorsement area. The thing that I think is interesting about this year, is you have in the draft what people perceive, at least in the marketing realm, as the the next Michael Jordan -- and that's Grant Hill. And Grant Hill has done nothing to dissaude that notion. He did not have a protracted holdout, he showed up on time, he scores 22 points in his first game. He's got it all. The bright, big smile, the college diploma. He's got what the NBA wants, and what marketers want. If Glenn Robinson doesn't watch himself -- if he cares -- I think he's going to have a difficult time assuming that mantle that Michael Jordan has left for the taking.