When Vince Lombardi told us winning was “the only thing,” it was a straightforward assertion about a different sort of boy’s game that men play than the one that led to Tiger Woods’ fall from media grace and No. 1 ranking as his golf game soured.
Lombardi was a smashmouth, ‘60s-era professional football coach whose interests, outside of successfully implementing the Xs and Os on a chalkboard, famously revolved around his family and his religion. Woods is, it has turned out very publicly, not only a great golfer but also a champion married womanizer in the age of social media. And therein lies the controversy over a new Nike ad for Tiger that bears the Vince-like quote, “Winning Takes Care of Everything.”
“Its message was as clear as a 9-iron to the face of a cheating spouse on Thanksgiving night: Tiger can do anything he wants so long as he wins,” reporter Don Burke asserts in the New York Post. “And if he wins, then nothing else really matters.”
The spread, which was published online Monday, alludes to Woods’ regaining the top spot in golf’s pecking order (“Tiger Woods, World #1” reads the attribution under the quote). The only other element, beside a photograph of Woods presumably staring down an empty hole on the putting green, is Nike’s Swoosh in the right hand corner next to the word “VICTORY.”
“By 11 p.m. yesterday, the ad had received more than 8,500 likes on Facebook and generated hundreds of comments,” Burke reports early this morning, suggesting that “Woods and Nike opened themselves up to an industrial-sized can of social media whoop-ass.” Well, something like that.
“This slogan is awful and counter to what we should be teaching our children!” one representative negative commenter writes this morning. “Does this mean that any athlete, or anyone for that matter, can commit crimes or act offensively and/or immorally and simply walk away from any personal and ethical responsibility if they WIN?”
On the positive side, one Alvin Shin writes, “Absolutely...everybody got the right to turn things around!”
To be fair, CBS golf writer Kyle Porter puts Woods’ original utterance into the proper context. It was “a semi-response to Greg Norman saying … that Woods was intimidated by Rory McIlroy” during the PGA Tour Championship in 2012, Porter writes, indicating that he was “just taking care of his own business and not worrying about what other people were doing.”
“The reality is what he said is true,” marketing consultant Laura Ries tells the AP in a story running in USA Today. “Whether or not they should have said it in an ad is another story.”
The story points out that “it’s the latest controversy” from Nike, which has recently “cut ties with biker Lance Armstrong and runner Oscar Pistorius due to separate scandals.” Nike is “looking at this and saying, ‘Time has passed, he’s winning again, it’s time to turn up the volume on our association,’” says Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor Associates.
The Atlantic Wire evidently took away a slightly more aggressive meaning. “Nike Tells Tiger Haters to Shove It with ‘Winning Takes Care of Everything’ Ad,” its headline proclaims.
“Is Nike’s new Tiger Woods ad really about his sex life?” asksThe Week’s headline. “When asked about his goals such as getting back to No. 1, he has said consistently winning is the way to get there,” a Nike spokesperson says in a statement it cites. “The statement references that sentiment and is a salute to his athletic performance.”
Crisis PR expert Mike Paul tellsAd Age’s Michael McCarthy that he “thinks it’s dangerous and ‘brazen’ for Woods and Nike to risk a backlash from fans and media at a time when both their brand reputations are rebounding.”
Still others struck a “love, peace and happiness" note.
“Now everything is peachy for Woods, who just went public with his romance with popular skier Lindsey Vonn and seems to be everyone’s choice to win the Masters,” Chuck Schilken writes in the Los Angeles Times. “Everyone loves a winner, right?”
Well, yes, judging by some comments. And no, too, of course. “The rich, powerful and popular are always above moral judgment or punishment by us lowly mortals who toil in their shadow,” writes another. Then there’s a third position: “Here’s a thought, who gives a rat’s behind?”
You’d be surprised, Vince. You’d be surprised.