Drink water. Fork sports. Demonetize advertisers.

6 Min Read
1168 words

One of the funniest and perhaps even poignant moments in the UEFA 2020 tournament so far, didn't happen on the field, it happened during an interview, when Cristiano Ronaldo removed the two Coke bottles on the desk away, held up a bottle of water and said "Agua". Coca-Cola lost 4 billion on its stock. In a another interview, Paul Pogba from France similarly removed a bottle of Heineken from his desk, as after all - it isn't there for him to drink, for he is a practicing Muslim.

What is interesting about these events is that it is somewhat of a pushback against advertising and especially in the case of Ronaldo who is one of the most highly endorsed sportspeople in the world, he holds a little power in this regard. He never agreed to advertise Coke, so why should he?

Yes, the insane salaries these players get (Ronaldo makes 70 million a year from playing alone) is only possible because of advertising and he can't choose what adverts are played on the stadium signs or displayed on the press conference walls, but he should still be able to have some choice over what sits on the desk in front of him as he speaks.

A few weeks ago at the French Open Tennis, there was an uproar by officials and many players because Naomi Osaka refused to take part in the post-match press conferences, as she said it wasn't good for her mental state. The problem was that the conferences are obligatory and to skip them meant she would face a "hefty fine" of 20 thousand dollars, which after earning 50 million in 2020, is a small price to pay for peace of mind and she was happy to take the fine.

I found the response to her concern for her own mental health both surprising and unsurprising. Surprising because other players said "it is part of our duty as players, and I have no problem with the interviews" and unsurprising because it is all about money, because sponsors pay to have their products on display and those clips are seen all around the world many times.

The problem with the response from some of the players is that regardless of their experience in the interviews, they are not Osaka. It is like if a woman says "I don't feel safe walking around the streets at night" and I respond with saying that she is silly to worry , because I feel safe. I feel safe because I am a guy that is unlikely to be targeted and, I don't care that much about my own life anyway. Me comparing my mental state to her mental state is a poor comparison and inappropriate.

Then there is the problem of if it is her "job", she is entitled to some kind of negotiation and change of duties, as after all, people in far less stressful conditions, go on stress leave all of the time. Osaka wasn't physically hampered, she was mentally - so she would have still been able to play the tournament and as the world No. 2, would have still brought in viewers, despite her not giving post-match interviews. Her real job is to play tennis, not give interviews after a match.

Their fear was, if they let Osaka "get away" with not giving interviews, who's next? If players stop talking to the press post match, advertisers will lose interest in advertising and organizers and broadcasters will lose advertising revenue. If it is in the contract that they have to give interviews to take part in the tournaments, what will they do if the best stop showing up or worse, what if the best in the world start organizing their own tournaments instead?

That would be interesting, wouldn't it? Fork a sport.

Normally when sports split, it is driven by the management level and players go either where they are told by contract or, to where they will get paid. However, if the players themselves start their own leagues, they will also attract the sponsors because, the sponsors need players, not just tournaments. The tournaments are just handy events to bring the best in the world together to attract a lot of attention.

Imagine what happens when there is a player owned league, where they own all roles within the league, including the distribution of the game itself through decentralized streaming services. What happens when the best football players in the world don't turn up to the World Cup, or the Tennis Grand Slams are played on private courts and are open to players who have the freedom to say no to reporters if they choose.

Of course, it isn't that easy and sport is a trillion dollar industry that requires a lot of moving parts and organization to make it possible at the highest level, as well as all the feeder services needed to develop players, but it is still an interesting thing to think about in terms of decentralization, freedom of choice, ownership and the way we organize ourselves and behave as a society.

A lot of these things apparently don't seem to register anymore, as we are so used to getting everything subsidized by advertising, including the platforms we use. We love the quality and convenience advertising revenue buys us, but we don't care about the harm it might be doing to us, or others. We have built the internet to be "free" at the cost of our attention, which is constantly pulled toward advertising messaging that compels us to buy, with no regard for whether it is healthy for us or not.

What if Ronaldo removed the Cokes, lit up a cigarette and said, "Marlboro" instead?

"But he is a role model. Think of the children".

While I do not put much role model faith in celebrities and sports stars, in these couple examples illustrated, what kind of role model would you want for your kids? Someone that values their body enough to think about what goes into it, someone who values their beliefs enough to act in accordance, someone who values their mental health enough to avoid something they have identified as detrimental.

What does this tell about society when people making healthy public decisions for themselves instead of acting for advertising dollars, are seen as negative?

The advertising model is so crushing because once benefiting from it, the advertisers own you, as your income is dependent on keeping them happy and if you don't, they are all too happy to throw you under the bus and demonetize you. Because users do not own any part of their experience on platforms like YouTube and Instagram, their position is granted and can be taken away - like the life of a slave, owned by a master.

Remember, they are dependent on us, not us on them.
It is fundamentally easy to control advertising - own the media they need.

[ Gen1: Hive ]

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