'Finding the 'Public' in 'Public Disrepute' – Would the Cultural Defense Make a Difference in Celebrity and Sports Endorsement Contract Disputes? - The Case of Michael Vick and Adrian Peterson

PACE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT LAW FORUM (Volume 6, Spring 2016)

31 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2016

Date Written: Spring 2016

Abstract

Those who endorse the "cultural defense" argue that courts should take into account cultural differences when the culture of origin of a minority person accused of criminal behavior might condone their behavior, even as majority white culture does not. Some feminists and human rights activists believe, however, this approach risks giving unfair protection to men who abuse women. While the cultural defense has not directly been examined in the context of morals clauses in celebrity endorsement contracts, this area is ripe for discussion, especially with respect to two recent, controversial cases involving termination of the endorsement contracts of two well-known black professional football players, Michael Vick (who was accused of illegal dogfighting) and Adrian Peterson (who was accused of inappropriately disciplining his child by hitting him with a tree switch). The public was deeply divided along racial lines about their behavior, with many blacks arguing it was an acceptable part of black culture, whereas many whites contended it was reprehensible.

Morals clauses can be terminated when companies decide that a celebrity has engaged in immoral behavior subject to public disrepute. This article explores if application of the cultural defense would make a different in cases such as Vick's and Peterson's, by first examining current case law on how morals clauses are interpreted in court, and then making predictions about how they might be interpreted in the future. Particular focus will be on the 2012 court case brought by former black pro-football player, Rashad Mendenhall, who entered into an out of court settlement with Hanesbrands when it terminated his endorsement contract because of tweets he made to his twitter account about Osama Bin Laden that were both supported and criticized by the public.

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Keywords: Endorsement Contracts, Football, NFL, Sports, Morals Clauses, Race, Racism, Cultural Defense, Human Rights, Mendenhall, Criminal Law, Ethics, Morality

JEL Classification: K14, K19, K42, Z22

Suggested Citation

Lester, Toni, 'Finding the 'Public' in 'Public Disrepute' – Would the Cultural Defense Make a Difference in Celebrity and Sports Endorsement Contract Disputes? - The Case of Michael Vick and Adrian Peterson (Spring 2016). PACE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT LAW FORUM (Volume 6, Spring 2016), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2808262

Toni Lester (Contact Author)

Babson College ( email )

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