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The leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping – it’s the perfect time of year to put a big pot of your favorite soup on, curl up and watch football baseball.

With the NFL season beginning with a series of upsetting headlines from players and questionable action (or lack of) by the league, the NFL in general has left a bad taste in my mouth. This extreme rough patch just continued to confirm my thinking (as well as others) that the NFL is a ticking time bomb.

So I very happily (I’ve been over the NFL for a while) decided to turn my full focus to the diamond. October, to me, means playoff baseball, and ratings show, I’m not the only one. Here are a few bullets to further my encouragement in favor of a pro-baseball fall season.

Derek Jeter: Yes, he’s retired (tears). But when the sporting world needed it most, Derek Jeter was our knight in shining pinstripes, hitting a walk off in his last home game EVER. The game, by playoff standings meant nothing, but to Yankee fans (and sports fans alike) it meant everything. This event allowed fans to:
• Get in the playoff spirit and ready for baseball to rule our households in October.
• Close the book on Jeter’s storied career just as they had hoped, doing what he has done best – winning.

This moment embodied what I love about baseball. Stay tuned to seeing how the MLB will find and deliver their next face of the sport.

Kansas City Royals: For the first time since 1985, the Royals are back in the playoffs. KC, worth $490 million, is listed as 29 out of 30 on Forbes.com’s Business of Baseball list of the most valuable MLB teams. And here they are, winning the AL Wild Card game over the Oakland A’s in dramatic walk-off fashion, and sweeping their way past the league’s best Los Angeles Angels. Next up, the AL East-winning Baltimore Orioles.

Can the 15 seed upset their way to the championship game? I can’t wait to find out.

The Oregon Ducks have long been the bastion of creative, flashy and unique jerseys. It seems their rise to prominence on the field has paralleled their dominance in the alternate uniform game. Having Nike padding their coffers can’t hurt. The more they’d win, the more the jerseys would change from year to year and game to game. Other schools (and manufacturers) saw the amount of talk, interest and revenue generated by having special jerseys and have reacted accordingly.

Since then, traditional programs like Ohio State and Oklahoma have added alternate uniforms to their sartorial repertoire. With big help from their official outfitters, smaller schools and mid-majors, like Northern Illinois and Ball State, have gotten in the mix,. The players love them, and they’re factoring into prospects’ minds when they choose what school to attend.

Nike competitor Under Armour recently announced a 10-year extension with one of its flagship schools, Maryland, in conjunction with some of the most patriotic alternate uniforms of all time. Who would have thought the sport of Dick Butkus and Johnny Unitas, not to mention these well-dressed guys, would turn into the most fashion-forward sport in America?

Off the field, alternate uniform announcements have given programs the opportunity to create traditional and social media content during the normally quiet summer. This is an excellent example for teams and programs to follow as a way to create a story and build something out of nothing besides fabric and sewing machines.

The trend is showing no sign of slowing down as the amount of teams with alternates grows each season. Additionally, it’s expanding beyond the college ranks. Like the players wearing them, the college alternate jerseys have made their way into the NFL, as demonstrated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2014 threads.

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 11.23.40 AMIf you’ve tuned into the news or social media at all the past two weeks, you know that the NFL has all but gone up in flames. Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Jonathan Dwyer – among others – have shined light on national issues of domestic violence and child abuse along with the nation’s differing views on them and how to handle them.

As an avid news reader, I know that these situations are far too common. So while I’m certainly not happy about what it’s taken to get to this place, it’s good to see open dialogue and education on these tough topics.

So here, presented without opinion, are some recent, well-reported, thought-provoking articles:

On domestic violence and victimization: After seeing the latest elevator footage, some argued that Rice’s fiance – now wife – “brought it on herself.” This article from Slate delves into the vicious cycle of domestic violence while this article from TIME explores the perpetual culture of victim blaming.

On culture and corporate punishment: While Adrian Peterson self-admittedly crossed the line, USA Today reporter Josh Peter explores how his upbringing and surrounding culture in Texas may have played a role in his article, “Whippings part of Adrian Peterson’s childhood.” On the other hand, CBS Sports reported Gregg Doyel looks inward at his own behavior as a father, the changing times, and what discipline really means in this piece.

On disciplining player behaviorTexas lawyer Stephanie Stradley explores the difficulties of punishing players beyond the justice system in her MMQB piece, “League Discipline and Legal Reality.”

Monday, the Baltimore Ravens terminated Ray Rice after the video surfaced showing him knocking out his then fiancé, now wife, Janay. The NFL suspended him indefinitely, and now Nike and EA Madden NFL 15 have severed ties with the football star, taking away his potential for lucrative endorsement deals.

Endorsement deals between companies and athletes are high-risk, but these businesses bank on a high reward. A corporation spends millions of dollars to align with a popular athlete, and millions more on advertising campaigns around that athlete. Because of this investment, there is now a “morals clause” included in contracts.

A morals clause allows a sponsor to terminate a deal with an athlete who has tarnished the company’s image based on some “immoral” conduct such as drug use or criminal charges.

Notable examples of dumped athletes due to morals clause infringements include Paraolympian Oscar Pistorius, who had $2 million annual endorsement deals prior to his arrest on murder charges, and cyclist Lance Armstrong, who had enormous deals with Nike and Anheuser Busch before his admission to doping. MLB’s Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi lost millions in sponsorships with Nike, Pepsi, MasterCard and KFC after the BALCO steroid scandal broke.

A morals clause can also cover public fighting, drunk driving and domestic scandals.

Tiger Woods had some of the biggest athlete product endorsers ever, yet in 2010, the fallout from the golfer’s extramarital affairs cost him over $20 million as AT&T, Gatorade and others bailed.

Inappropriate social media behavior detrimental to a brand’s reputation can also cost an athlete a contract. Champion sportswear dropped NFL player Rashard Mendenhall after he tweeted personal comments sympathizing with Osama bin Laden and questioning the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The list of athletes who have been abandoned by sponsors because of illegal or unethical behavior will continue to grow. Because the risks are so high for businesses, morals clauses have become a necessity in endorsement deals.

 

 

bolgheader_BrandingNo pictures, please.

The American PGA and PGA European Tour have banned the use of social media at the upcoming coveted Ryder Cup to be played in Scotland later this month.

Tournament organizers released in a statement earlier this week, “No audio or video capture is permitted at all during the six-day event as the (PGA) and the PGA European Tour want to make sure their image is intact, and players are not distracted…You must not sell, license, publish (including, without limitation, via Twitter or Facebook or any other social media site) or otherwise commercially exploit photographs.”

This is a prime example of how some brands just don’t get it. The PGA wants to make sure their image is in tact? What image exactly is that? The one that shuns its fans from sharing the experience around the world? The one that shelters its sport from the change in technology that propels its very livelihood forward? Or, the one whose athletes make millions off social media’s commercial influence?

The PGA isn’t alone here, either. The Olympics tried to do the same thing last winter when they banned photos from within Olympic Village. And, shockingly, athletes adopt this policy every day, stating reasons like keeping their private life private, not enough time, too much work to keep up with fans, etc. etc.

Here’s the honest truth. The only brand leagues, organizations and athletes is leaving in tact in the absence of a social media presence is just that – “Absent.” With no brand to connect to, fans and consumers can only deduce one thing – it doesn’t exist. So, for better or worse, wrong or right, they replace it with whatever it means to them.

Sorry guys, but you gotta get with the times. Social media is part of the sports landscape now, plain and simple.

No pictures? Please.