Professional Deception, Harmful Products and Hero Hypocrisy in the Grocery Isle

February 3rd, 2014
Jim Thomas

People know hypocrisy when they see it. They recognize and condemn it for what it is — an adversary of trust, credibility and reputation. Hypocrisy springs from professing one set of beliefs, then either ignoring, disregarding or acting contrary to them. One wag characterized the hypocrite “…as he who would cut down a 2000-year old redwood then mount the stump to talk about conservation.”

The antidote is performance with integrity. Keeping in mind that integrity means one can be trusted to do the right thing — even when it is inconvenient, difficult or unprofitable.

Prevalent among rich high-profile athletes is hypocrisy at its worst. They recommend products that are harmful and receive millions for doing so. In its piece, “Nutrition Facts,” Sports Illustrated (October 28, ’13) reported examples, relying on a study published in the October 7 issue of Pediatrics, entitled “Athlete Endorsements in Food Marketing.” Sports Illustrated cites eight athletes, ranging from professional football players to stock car racers. For touting mostly harmful food products, they received a low of $5 million to a high of $25.1 million.

What were they endorsing?  They were associated with 44 different food or beverage brands. Seventy-nine percent of the 62 food products in athlete-endorsed advertisements were energy-dense and nutrition poor.  Ninety-three percent of the 46 advertised beverages had 100 percent of calories from added sugar. The writers at Pediatrics (mainly PhDs) concluded: Youth are exposed to professional athlete endorsements of food products that are energy dense and nutrition-poor.

Contrast these breaches of integrity with the upright behavior of Arthur Godfrey, first of the great radio and TV pitchmen of the 40s, 50s and 60s. He enjoyed popularity because audiences and advertisers trusted him.  He refused to endorse cake recipes until he, himself, had cooked and tasted the cake. He refused to continue representing the maker of Chesterfield cigarettes when he learned of their propensity to cause harm.  He severed a lucrative contract with Colgate-Palmolive when it was discovered its laundry product, Auxion, contained phosphates, a water pollutant.

Godfrey set a forgotten example that today’s athletic idols and mass advertises would do well to follow. Everyone stands to benefit.

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