SBD/May 6, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Champion Dropping Mendenhall As Endorser After Controversial Tweets

Mendenhall recently extended his deal with Champion through '15
Champion has cut ties with Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall as an endorser "over his controversial tweets objecting to the celebration over the death of Osama bin Laden," according to Michael McCarthy of USA TODAY. Champion spokesperson Matt Hall on Thursday said the apparel brand is "ending our business relationship" with Mendenhall since it does not think he "can appropriately represent Champion." Mendenhall first reached a three-year deal to endorse the Hanesbrands unit in '08, and recently signed a four-year extension through '15 (USATODAY.com, 5/5). YAHOO SPORTS' Matthew Darnell wrote "since Mendenhall's words run pretty contrary to public opinion, it's probably best" for Champion's "bottom line to cut and run." The brand will "get some headlines out of the deal, too." But Darnell adds, "I hope this is where the punishment ends for Mendenhall. ... At the end of the day, this is just a guy who tweeted something unpopular" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/6). CBSSPORTS.com's Will Brinson wrote Mendenhall "didn't do anything wrong, he just did something stupid." Athletes need to understand that "using Twitter is just like being ... at a press conference." Brinson: "While Twitter and Facebook and all forms of social media are a fascinating and fun way for athletes to communicate with fans and media alike, it's also a part of an individual's brand" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/5).

NO DELETING ONCE IT IS OUT THERE: ESPN's Jim Rome said Mendenhall is "entitled to his own opinion, he can even have a Twitter account." Rome: "He just needs to knows the Internet is in ink, and deleting those tweets does not erase them." He added there are a "lot of guys that have helped build their brands" with Twitter, and there are a "lot of good things about social networking." Rome: "But if you're not careful, it can definitely bite you." ESPN's Jeff Chadiha said, "What's tough for athletes to recognize is that they're so used to being loved, so used to having people clean up for their mistakes. When you do these kinds of things, it can cause you all kinds of problems" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 5/5). CNBC's Darren Rovell said there is "great value by being on Twitter." Rovell: "Dwight Howard is a whole lot more valuable, LeBron James is a whole lot more valuable than Kobe Bryant because Kobe Bryant isn't on Twitter and they are. So I hope that it doesn't come down to it being about the medium because again, it's not about the medium. It's just being a little bit smarter" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 5/5). ESPN's Jackie MacMullan: "If you're going to say something inflammatory and tweet it, why don't you just wait a little while, make sure you really mean it and then to be doubly sure, run it by your agent before you send it out there and cause yourself a major headache" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/5).

CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS: In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell writes under the header, "Athletes Have A Right To Speak Out." Whether you "agree with Mendenhall's opinions or not, he should have the right to them and his birthright guarantees him the freedom to express them." Burwell: "We can't have it both ways. We can't pick for convenience all the conversations about race, religion or politics that please us and say 'that's okay,' then spin around and scream to the high heavens when some jock picks a side of a debate that curdles our stomachs" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/6). ESPN's Jemele Hill said athletes "get lambasted every single time that they say something, but on the other hand you have this other crowd pulling for them to be socially responsible, more aware." Hill: "We've even said we're tired of one-dimensional athletes. We can't have it both ways." Cardinals K Jay Feely said all the media is "doing is reporting what you put out there, and it's incumbent upon you to be careful with how you represent yourself" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 5/5).
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