Timothy Egan of The New York Times wonders what celebrity athletes have to do to offend the marketing executives at Nike:
If [Ben Rothlisberger] didn’t have a pair of Super Bowl Rings and a $102 million contract to entertain us on Sundays, most people would see him for what he is: a thug with a predatory sense of entitlement.
On Wednesday, the NFL suspended him for six games and ordered him to “comprehensive behavioral counseling.” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which has a done an admirable job of bringing the tawdry details to a troubled Steeler Nation, has editorialized about the “sting of betrayal” that fans feel, so much so that he may even be traded imminently. Even a local sponsor, the maker of Big Ben’s Beef Jerky, has dropped him, citing his recent behavior.
But Nike, the shoe-maker to the world, the biggest brand in the endorsement game, is standing by Roethlisberger — at least for the moment — just as they continue to back Tiger Woods after his serial infidelities.
For Nike, Roethlisberger has been used in commercials to sell the aptly named “Marauder” cleats. The company did not return my phone calls for comment, but in an e-mail earlier they said, “Ben continues to be part of the Nike roster of athletes.”
Really? Ben Roethlisberger, a man most parents would not let near their daughter, let alone their community center, is a fit representative for one of the premier American corporations."
Egan notes that Nike dropped Michael Vick for cruelty to animals but hasn't dropped Rothlisberger for cruelty to women. Does Nike have a blindspot? Does this matter to anybody who buys Nike's shoes and clothing? It is one thing to talk about corporate responsibility in a case like this--what about consumer responsibility?