This week Nike unveiled a new Tiger Woods ad that reads “Winning takes care of everything.” Unfortunately, and as much as some of us working in the field of sport psychology would like to not have to admit to this, “winning” does seem to dramatically help when it comes to damage control and the negative impact on public perception when athletes mess up.
Personally, I think the new Nike ad sends a terrible message, especially to young, impressionable athletes. In essence, the ad implies that you can “cheat, lie, and steal,” so long as you are really good at your sport. In fact, some sports media personnel have suggested that the reason Lance Armstrong won’t rebuild his image is because he doesn’t have the opportunity to once again stand as #1 in his sport (his competitive cycling days were drawing to a near even before he was officially banned).
When it comes to sports morals and role modeling, there is a wide range of what sports fans find to be tolerable. Tiger Woods took a big hit when the news first broke about his marital infidelities, but now — with the help of Nike — he appears to be gaining some momentum toward once again being a fan favorite. “Winning,” it appears, has made it all better again.
Using another example, LeBron James has also witnessed an upswing in popularity a couple years after “The Decision,” even though at the time most sports fans thought his cheap publicity stunt to sign with Miami would have made him a sports “bad guy” for life. Please know I am not comparing Tiger Woods to LeBron James in terms of their poor judgements, but instead looking at how both have rebounded in popularity largely due to, well, winning.
So, does winning make up for everything? Are we too shallow as sports fans because we often forgive and forget when athletes win, or better people for giving athletes who have goofed up a chance for redemption? Regardless of how you stand on this issue, Nike’s blatant, in your face Just Win and it All Goes Away pronouncement seems to be a bit much for some people, including me.
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