Bryant: RGIII is ‘more commercial than competitor’

October 1, 2013

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Robert Griffin III was on the cover of ESPN the Magazine before he joined the Redskins.

He was on the cover again before he started his second season.

Never, though, was he covered by that magazine in quite the same way Howard Bryant covered him this month. The magazine’s upcoming issue features a brief commentary by the former Washington Post writer on the marketing of RGIII, and goodness, Bryant isn’t messing around. Among his observations:

* “The marketing contrivance has collided with the cold truth: The great RG3, whose career is composed of one magical season and exactly one playoff game, is more commercial than competitor.”

* “He isn’t the same player. And he has no one to blame but himself for being packaged in a way that created unrealistic expectations.”

* “It was ESPN that aired the Gatorade-produced RG3 documentary, and this magazine has been relentless in inflating Griffin as a transformative figure.”

* “He has allowed himself to be manipulated, rendered inauthentic by marketing.”

* “The Redskins, the coach, ESPN and the good Dr. Andrews are all complicit.”

* ” When he arrived in Washington last year, he was positioned as the racial bridge of a divided city, even though he had yet to say or do anything of great social significance (and still hasn’t).”

* “While he has worked overtime to craft an image, there are healthier, better players who are running right past him. Only his performance, not a commercial or YouTube video or marketing campaign, can change that.”

While I see what Bryant’s getting at here, I would argue that his employer — which, in fairness, he does mention several times — has been by far the worst transgressor.

“Yes, he can …… be the most transformative athlete, role model and voice of a generation,” its headline screamed in April, before a story written as an open letter to Barack Obama.

“Like you, Mr. President, Griffin promises to transcend old rules, to smash ancient barriers,” J.R. Moehringer wrote, and I’m pretty sure Griffin wasn’t co-bylined. “Like you, he challenges fixed ideas, especially the one about great promise versus consummate virtuosity….With so much at stake, or perceived to be at stake, it’s natural that people get nervous and use big nonsensical words (postracial, transformational) in trying to describe Griffin, the same words they use to describe you.”

That’s the kind of hyperventilating that Griffin — for all his commercial deals and well-publicized ads — has never done. He never talks about transcending old rules or smashing ancient barriers, about being postracial or transformational. And he’s certainly never claimed to be the voice of a generation. Google kind of indicates that the only publication to do that was, yeah, ESPN the Magazine.

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · October 1, 2013

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