When has an athlete crossed the line?

I happened to catch an ESPN segment this morning featuring Indy Car sex kitten, Danica Patrick. Wow! The accomplished driver seems to have set her sights on becoming her "sport’s" answer to Anna Kournikova. She’s done fashion spreads, pin-up calendars and all sorts of other promotional Danica events attired in very revealing togs. In doing so, Patrick has become a crossover star and has the potential to rise to genuine pop icon status.

But what are the image and reputation implications of her marketing machinations? What must her fellow "good old boy" drivers think of Ms. Patrick’s tabloid spreads? Does it demean or cheapen their efforts? Or, does the heightened awareness she generates benefit one and all? The Indy Car circuit has to love Danica since she obviously appeals to a totally different demographic (she certainly caught my attention).

But, what message is she sending to young girls? Is Patrick, like Kournikova before her, saying that it’s ok to cash in on one’s looks? Is Danica saying we should "….make all you can while you can?"

Today’s athletes rebel at any suggestion that they are role models for our nation’s youth. For the most part, athletes believe they should do what pleases and rewards them, and to hell with everyone else. Obviously, there are exceptions. But, the exceptions are becoming increasingly rare.

It’s a sad state of affairs. And, it only seems to be getting worse.

14 thoughts on “When has an athlete crossed the line?

  1. Common, you’re just jealous you do what she did and nobody’s interested.Anyway what’s your beef or what’s so sad about posing in a bikini? We see this on the beach all the time that’s is if you ever been to a beach in your life. You probably was dissappointed, I would guess she wasn’t in the raw, the reason for the beefing.
    If you’re goodlooking and got a nice body what’s wrong with showing it and make money on the side. Stop beefing and smell the roses dude we all need to find ways to get by in this world as long as it’s legal and done in good taste.

  2. this is nothing but clear how women become slutty in nature ,though they have countless arguments to cover it.irrespective of their profession neo liberal sentiments driven women reveal themselves as it is the best way to amass wealth n become icon(though of slutty nature).so to speak ,future car racing ‘ll be more of thongs n bras ,it won’t take long to young lady doctors,businesswomen to strip themselves n become icon to teen girls.

  3. Rep Man-
    Looks like we will agree to disagree on this one..
    I mostly agree with Stacy. The one point to note is in the case of Bonds, Giambi, etc, they did something ILLEGAL! Showing off an attractive healthy body in a bathing suit,is not against the law..its perfectly acceptable in today’s society.
    Sure, we are all role models in some way, shape or fashion, but does that mean that the next time Mr. Cody does anything wrong there should be a blog vilifying you. I mean, if you bet on the super bowl or entered an NCAA pool, does that make you a bad role model. After all, that would actually be illegal, but posing in a bathing suit is not. Think that one through..

  4. I understand what RepMan is saying about role models, and agree on athletes such as Bonds, Sheff and Giambi. Steroid use and poor conduct are not the lead we want our kids to follow. I don’t believe, however, showing a healthy, athletic body sets a poor example. In fact, NASCAR is trying to build its reputation as a sport and recently did a similar cover with Carl Edwards: http://towleroad.typepad.com/towleroad/2006/02/nascars_carl_ed.html
    In an age of obesity and laziness, there’s nothing wrong with branding an athlete’s body as sexy and desirable.

  5. I-man: let’s all be thankful there are no photos of you in a bathing suit circulating around the blogosphere. As far as I’m concerned, celebrity comes with a price. The price is called responsibility and accountability. Like it or not, these individuals are role models for our kids, and what they do or say is watched very carefully by our nation’s kids. In fact, we are all role models for those who follow in our footsteps. Scary to say, there’s probably some unsusecting, young medical supplies salesperson who sees you as a role model. Think that one through….

  6. Mr Rep-
    What does making it to the top have to do with cashing in on one’s looks. There is an industry called modeling where all people do is cash in on their looks. As i said before, looks are a brand, just as a hot new sports car is a brand. This really has nothing to do with old school vs. new school, this has to do with marketing 101.
    Danica did nothing illegal or unethical. I don’t understand what you mean by “the impact it has on impressionable kids.” Why would she have a problem telling her kids that she is beautiful and there are pics of her in a bathing suit.
    Finally, the idea that Danica should play the part of a role model? I don’t remember seeing a headline saying Danica signed up to be the role model for today’s youth. She is a professional, much as PR or medical supply execs are. The only people she has to be a role model to are her kids (if and when she has any). Any in today’s society, if posing in a bathing suit is her worst offense as a parent, then we should all be such bad role models to our kids.

  7. I agree with Steve that the getting it while you can lifestyle is empty and bankrupt, but this begs the question once again: are we in the business of molding behavior or are we giving the public what they want?
    Having no children of my own I can only imagine how hard it is to filter this kind of garbage from one’s household. But the fact remains that this is what the general public wants. This is why I see little girls wearing T-shirts that say Party Favor and Property of Boy’s Locker Room.
    We have a responsibility to clients and consumers to promote product that the public wants. Parents have the responsibility to interpret these messages for their children to create future upstanding adults.

  8. For better or worse, our society is looks and gossip obsessed, and like it or not, Danica, Paris and all the others are simply giving the public what they want. Can you blame them for participating, when it’s what society and the press pushes on them and they are being bombarded by it on all sides?
    As for waiting to cash in on your looks until you’re at the top, that just seems absurd to me. While it would be nice to think that fame comes through talent, smarts and hard work, the sad truth is that it is mostly achieved through cashing in on your looks. Waiting likely ensures you’ll just never make it. Just look at all the no talent hacks in Hollywood that the public rushes out to see because they are beautiful.

  9. I guess I’m from the old school, Mr. Medical Supply man. I’d like to see people earn their way to the top before they start cashing in on their looks. As for the gender question, I’ve written numerous blogs about Barry Bonds and other horrific male role models. And, that’s where I’m coming from. What I think everyone is missing is that stars, celebrities, athleltes, call them what you will, they should take responsibility for their actions. Whether it’s Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter, Mia Hamm or Danica Stewart, it’s my belief that these individuals should be thinking about the impact of their actions on our highly impressionable youth. It isn’t about marketing. It isn’t about “getting while the getting is good.” And, it most definitely isn’t about gender. What it IS about is accountability (or lack thereof).

  10. While I understand your points, you’re both missing one of my major concerns. Celebrities, athletes, etc., aren’t thinking about the impact their actions have on impressionable kids. I, for one, wouldn’t want my daughter emulating Paris, Danica, or any of the others you mention. Perhaps if, and when, you have children of your own, you’ll better understand why “getting it while you can” is a bogus, bankrupt philosophy for living one’s life.

  11. The idea of capitalizing on one’s looks goes both ways, but yet, somehow it’s the women who get the negative (depending on how you look at it) attention. Derek Jeter uses it to his advantage, as did Jeremy Bloom during this year’s Winter Olympics. Perhaps we need to take a closer look at society and why Danica and Anna’s motives are being questioned and not some of the men who do the same. There are plenty of female athletes who go the more traditional route and brand themselves based on their sport–Mia Hamm being one of the best examples. But, she certainly hasn’t made the same amount of money as say Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods.
    I would say female athletes are unfairly judged on their looks more so than their male peers. You don’t typically hear anyone whispering about an ugly baseball player, but you sure hear a lot of comments on the women’s softball team and their looks. And, if female athletes received the same compensation and marketing deals as men, perhaps they wouldn’t be so quick to capitalize on all those “sexy” offers.

  12. Excellent point, Jenny. I do wonder what Andrew has to say about this Danica situation as he was very vocal about how displeased he was with the VW Turbo Cojones ad.
    On your point about Lindsey Lohan, let’s not forget that Paris Hilton lunged into the spotlight after releasing a home made sex video. We also talk about Jenna Jameson in as cavalier a tone as we would talk about Laura Bush. So what’s the big deal with a picture of a spread eagle nobody NASCAR person?
    I don’t blame anybody for capitalizing on their looks — if this Danica chick doesnt do it, somebody else will. Do you, girl.

  13. This might be unacceptable in your eyes because Danica is a sports figure, but just think of all the emerging stars in Hollywood who think that if they are in the gossip columns enough they will land a leading role. They too are supposed to be considered “role models.” It’s gotten to the point where Lindsey Lohan admits she has an eating disorder and drug problem, while Teri Hatcher comes out with a sexual abuse trauma story to get headlines. Is it any wonder why she would do this at the same time her co-star Felicity Huffman is up for an Oscar? Hmmm….This is taking “make all you can while you can” to the extreme. If spilling your guts to the general public for no reason isn’t selling yourself short, I don’t know what is.

  14. Interesting points made today. However, I do believe that Danica, Anna or whoever should absolutely do these types of opportunities. The line would be drawn at things like pornography, or the like, but if they are doing photo shoots, calendars, mag covers, good for them. They are after all a brand, with limited shelf life, and if they make millions promoting themselves or their bodies, then all the power to them.
    As you said, she caught your attention, so a job well done to Danica. It may be unfortunate, but in today’s society there is a make “make it while you can mentality” and I am all for it, as long as what you do is legal. Just think, how many companies changed biz models to run after the dot com money, only to regroup and again go back to a more stable biz model? I would think that you, being an accomplished marketer would agree with and applaud the sucess that Danica has created for herself. I certainly do.