Should there be a limit on what players can display on their clothing as far as advertising or sponsorships?
This was a point that came to light a few weeks ago at the US Open when American player Madison Keys had one of those temporary tattoos on her arm which was in fact an endorsement logo. She was made to cover it up.
I remember in the seventies and early eighties (no I am not giving away my age) patches on tennis clothing went through the roof. Players, in particular Bjorn Borg, were starting to look like Formula One drivers and it did nothing for the aesthetics of the game so “corrections” to the guideline were brought in and then they were tightened again with the dimensions of patches being restricted.
Kei Nishikori has probably taken the mantle as tennis’ F1 player.
The patches are allowed to be a bit bigger now but even then if I were a company looking to have a player endorsement I wouldn’t put a patch on a sleeve, who can read them when a player is playing. Some companies have been a bit creative and had a patch on a collar so that when a press conference or interview is happening there is way more chance of that being noticed.
However I deviate a bit, the point is should there be a limit to how many endorsement patches a player should be allowed to wear?
A player agent could argue that any restrictions is preventing a player from earning income and that is restraint of trade but the governing bodies could say well that’s our rules for what happens on court. There is no restriction on how many companies a player can be aligned to off-court but there is a limit on court.
One concern could be to do with tournament themselves and that is a player’s personal endorsement might just be a conflict with what is highlighted on courtside signage and too many of those conflicts could put things in an awkward situation.
But here lies another conflict. If a player looks like a F1 driver with too many patches, doesn’t a tennis court surrounds look like the F1 car with its numerous sponsorships? So if it is good enough for one, should it not be good enough for the other? Isn’t the present situation a contradiction?
Li Na was and is the only player on Nike’s books who was allowed to wear the patch of another company on her match outfits. That says a lot. Not even Roger Federer, Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova was allowed to do that.
But there does need to be a line drawn somewhere and one of those aspects is the tattoo. I don’t think the sports needs to see a player with a permanent tattoo displaying the logo or something like that inked on their arm or neck or wherever. As it is in my view tattoos don’t look appealing anyway.