By Peter Herrnreiter
With the Tiger Woods saga almost behind us, I could only wonder why a seemingly professional, sensable and caring family man would go to such lengths to not only commit adultery, but to hide his indiscretions from the public. In the US, it is clear that such deplorable actions will land you in hot water, however overseas it seems, while it may not necessarily be allowed, it certainly is not entirely frowned upon.
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By now, I would think that most people in the sporting world would be familiar with the Woods’ issues, but maybe not so about the Terrys’. While watching ESPN a few days back, I did hear PTI’s Michael Wilbon mention the Terry affair, but he did so only in passing.
I cannot imagine, if soccer was as large in the US as it is in Europe, that such an incident would be mentioned only in reference to another story. Tiger’s issues have not only become a money maker for typical checkout line tabloids, but a watershed moment for Tiger and the sport as a whole. A number of public figures like, John Edwards, Elliott Spitzer, Jessie James and Bill Clinton have been made synonymous with extra marital affairs, but to have an individual who was so well regarded, who’s image was so closely and purposefully crafted commit such amoral acts had forced many fans to question their loyalty in his brand.
After being outed in both his public and private life, a number of his sponsors such as Gillette, TAG Heuer and Accenture had suspended their adverts containing the golf phenom and dropped him completely from their ad campaigns almost immediately.
This all finally leads me to the overarching question- why has the same not been done to John Terry. The former England skipper and current Chelsea captain has quite the laundry list of questionable private performances, such as sex with a 17-year old, which was covered in great detail but the Sun in 2005.
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While the differences between the two men might not have been great, the actions and reactions of the public have been. 65% of Americans believed that Woods should resume his golf career. A similar number, about 68%, believe that his sponsors should detach themselves from him.
As for Terry, well a Guardian poll finds that 60% of England fans say that the former skipper should not only remain on the England squad, but stay on as captain, as his off field indiscretions are a personal matter. And as for his sponsors? Terry, unlike Tiger, was able to attain a super-injunction to stop the media from reporting on his marriage issues for a short time, and in doing so, he seemed to come out of this largely unscathed- from a financial standpoint at least.
The Telegraph’s George Pitcher rightly notes that in the end, corporations indeed do hold the rights to what can be defined as “sporting morality”. Whether for a new line of condoms or some type of marketing campaign aimed solely at the main 18- 35 year old demographic, there will be someone willing to use this new bad boy image as the face of their new angle.
But still, why such a gulf exists between the two continents and their attitudes to these two men? I would bet the key would lie in the bottom line. While Tiger’s sponsors might want to cut their losses in the short terms, Terry’s will undoubtedly be making money as in Europe is seems, a players off field antics are apparently no clear reflection of his character, captain or not.