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Wrongdoing In The Public Eye: A-Rod, Phelps, Associated Press

Wrongdoing In The Public Eye: A-Rod, Phelps, Associated Press
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Francisco Hui
  • 12 february 2009

Amidst all that has happened recently with public figures and their wrongdoings, there might be something to take away from it all.

A-Rod has admitted to taking performance enhancing drugs, Michael Phelps has been photographed taking a bong hit, and the Associated Press is being sued by Shepard Fairey in a dispute over their Obama images.

There are clear “rights” and “wrongs”. These are the legal issues. Taking steroids is against MLB rules; smoking marijuana is against the law; whether the AP or Fairey is in the right will be determined in a court of law.

Then there’s public opinion of what’s right and wrong, which is arguably more important than what is technically allowed or not. This is based in large part in our perception of intentionality. Steroids are taken more seriously than marijuana in the public’s opinion. The rationale is that steroid distorts who A-Rod is as a baseball player, while smoking pot doesn’t change what Phelps accomplished in the Olympics.

With the AP and Fairey, it is a losing battle for the AP, since the public sees it as an organization attacking one man. Shepard was creating working for social and non-commercial purposes and the AP is seen as being an opportunist behemoth trying to cash in on his work.

The MLB will also have a difficult time regaining the public’s trust. While Fairey and the AP sort it out, Obama worries about the message A-Rod and the other baseball players are sending to kids.

What brands do in the public eye has its effects, and you can relate this to recent changes in Pepsi. Were people really reacting to the aesthetics or their quick-fix intentions? Athletes, like major corporations, have their own brand image to preserve. How they are perceived is not determined by the court and law, but, as we have previously discussed, by public opinion.

[image via ESPN Interview]

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