SBD/May 23, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

TaylorMade-Adidas Condemns Garcia "Fried Chicken" Remark, Will Continue To Review

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Garcia reportedly earns more than $5M annually from his TaylorMade-adidas deal

TaylorMade-adidas Golf yesterday "distanced itself" from a racial remark made by golfer Sergio Garcia about Tiger Woods during a European Tour dinner Tuesday night, according to Michael Buteau of BLOOMBERG NEWS. The company in a statement said, “Sergio Garcia’s recent comment was offensive and in no way aligns with TaylorMade-Adidas Golf’s values and corporate culture. We have spoken with Sergio directly and he clearly has regret for his statement and we believe he is sincere. We discussed with Sergio that his comments are clearly out of bounds and we are continuing to review the matter.” Garcia also "apologized for the dinner remark in a statement released by the European PGA Tour and again at a televised news conference yesterday morning, saying it wasn’t meant as a racial slur" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 5/23). Golf World Senior Editor Mike Johnson said TaylorMade-adidas' statement "gives them lots of wiggle room." Johnson: "They issued a very strong condemnation of the wording and the actions of Sergio Garcia, but they also didn’t totally throw him under the bus.” The company “made it a case where if they want to keep him, they can. If they want to cut him loose, they can do that. But I think they're going to take the next few days to see which way the wind is blowing and then go from there.” Johnson noted the public has not "heard much from" other Garcia sponsors ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 5/22). In N.Y., Mark Cannizzaro cited a source as saying that Garcia "earns slightly more than" $5M annually from his endorsement contract with TaylorMade-adidas (N.Y. POST, 5/23).

MONEY GRABBER: FORBES.com's Patrick Rishe wrote Garcia "adroitly demonstrated how to minimize future income streams, fan adulation, and corporate support." The steps are "quite simple: (1) Open mouth, (2) employ a racial slight against the game’s most famous player, (3) insert foot, and (4) watch the opportunity costs rise." Despite Garcia's apologies, the "damage had been done" (FORBES.com, 5/22). ESPN's Bomani Jones said it was "your typical, disingenuous 'please don't take my sponsorship money' apology" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 5/22). Golfer Fuzzy Zoeller made a similar comment following the '97 Masters, and FOXSPORTS.com's Robert Lusetich noted Zoeller's sponsors "deserted him" afterward. Garcia's comment "wasn't as long or egregious, but it carries the same stain" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/22). However, ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said Woods "rescued Sergio" by addressing Garcia's comments via his Twitter feed. Woods let Zoeller "hang out there to dry for quite some time," and Zoeller "lost a bunch of endorsements as a result of that." But Garcia is "stained with something probably for the rest of his career." ESPN's Michael Wilbon, who believed Garcia's apology was sincere, said, "I don't equate him with Fuzzy Zoeller, who knew what he was doing" ("PTI," ESPN, 5/22).
 
GOING TO LEAVE A MARK: In S.F., Ann Killion writes Garcia "just changed his reputation forever." Unless Garcia "goes on to win a dozen majors ... his insensitive, racially tinged comment will be one of the first things people think of when they hear his name" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/23). USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes the situation is "a serious matter that is now attached to Garcia for the rest of his career, turning him into the 21st-century version of Fuzzy Zoeller" (USA TODAY, 5/23). Golf World's Tim Rosaforte said, "You just can't walk back from that. It's like posting something stupid on a Twitter account or a website and thinking you're taking it down and it's gone. It's there forever in a sense. It's in your Wikipedia bio. It's part of your legacy" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 5/22). CBSSPORTS.com's Gregg Doyel wrote the public will remember Garcia as a "racist." There is "no going back," not from "something as bad as those 12 words from Tuesday night" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/22). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, "He's going to have to live with it for the rest of his life, and he's going to see financially it's going to have major effect on him" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/22). GOLFCHANNEL.com's Rex Hoggard wrote, "He can’t apologize enough for what he said or for the fact that he should have known better" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 5/22). But SI.com's Michael Rosenberg wrote Garcia made "a real, full-throated apology, and I hope people accept it." A man's "reputation should not be destroyed by a joke, even this one" (SI.com, 5/22).

SHOULD TOUR GET INVOLVED? Both the PGA and European tours accepted Garcia's apology, but ESPN's Pablo Torre said Garcia "needs to be reprimanded in the same way that the NBA or MLB or the NFL would reprimand any of its stars for saying racist remarks." L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke asked, "How can the PGA let this guy come back on Tour without some kind of reprimand? … They have to make a stand against this." But Paige said PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem has "already established the precedent" after he did not fine or suspend Zoeller in '97. Paige: "They said, 'Okay, that was enough,' so I assume they're going to do the same thing (with Garcia)" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/22). ESPN's Bob Harig noted PGA Tour officials have yet to publicly comment on the issue and said he is not "sure that they will." Harig: "They typically handle these matters behind closed doors" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 5/22). But ESPN.com's Jemele Hill wrote the PGA Tour "deserves equal, if not more criticism" than Garcia. What is "far more unacceptable is that PGA Tour officials haven't responded substantively and stepped in to suspend Garcia." It "doesn't matter that Garcia made these comments while on the European Tour." The PGA Tour "can't stand by and let its most prominent golfer be insulted" (ESPN.com, 5/22). 

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