One man’s photo op is another man’s coin op.
Barack Obama invited the World Series champions to the White House Tuesday to generate positive press coverage. The MVP of the World Series instead used the visit to generate positive cash flow.
David Ortiz’s bold presidential selfie appeared to show Barack Obama and Big Papi overcome with joy after the commander-in-chief had received his own Red Sox “44” jersey. But the jersey didn’t come for free. Jonny Gomes shouting out “Cha-ching!” after Ortiz snapped the pic surely told us as much.
Big Papi had quietly signed a promotional deal with smart-phone maker Samsung the previous day. The company tweeted out the famous picture to five million followers immediately after the Red Sox White House visit. What we thought was spontaneous was really staged. Like so many party hosts, the president now feels a bit used.
“As a rule the White House objects to attempts to use the president’s likeness for commercial purposes,” White House press secretary Jay Carney sternly said Thursday. “We object in this case.” When asked whether the president’s lawyers have contacted Samsung, Red Sox fan Carney responded, “I’m not going to get into the counsel’s discussions.”
“I did take a lot of pictures of the White House, but it wasn’t anything on purpose. Went around like everyone else,” Ortiz innocently told the Boston Globe. “You don’t get a chance to get a photo with the president every day.”
And hey, it’s not every day that the president gets a chance to take a picture with the likes of David Ortiz. He hit .688 in the World Series. How are the president’s numbers faring? MLB.com announced that since the World Series Big Papi’s jersey has outsold all others. Obama’s popularity, on the other hand, ranks in the history of Gallup polling below every president at this point in the second term save for Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. At 42 percent in the approval ratings, Barack Obama flirts dangerously close to the Political Mendoza Line. He really needed the help of a clutch performer more than the clutch performer needed his.
The Constitution awards the president the power to command armies and execute the laws. It doesn’t say anything about congratulating millionaire athletes after they win. Politicians long before Obama’s arrival in the Oval Office sponged off the popularity of sports stars. But not until David Ortiz walked into the White House on Tuesday, his third such trip with the Red Sox, did an athlete manage to reverse the who’s-using-who dynamic.
Feigning to honor victorious athletes, the Rose Garden ceremonies cynically award the politician a guarantee of glowing coverage. It’s too bad that it took a brazen commercial exploitation of the leader of the free world to expose the brazen exploitation of athletes by politicians. But now that the jig is up, can’t everyone just agree to pull a Tim Thomas and proclaim a separation of sport and state?
The White House, whether hosting the Black Hawks or the Red Sox or the Crimson Tide, uses athletes for the publicity rub they provide. David Ortiz merely flipped the script.
Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.