Once again football has come under the global spotlight this week – both front and back pages of newspapers, social media platforms and websites – with West Ham and France player Kurt Zouma cruelly and callously kicking and slapping his pet cat and posting it on his social media channels.
And before we go any further Festival of Media does not condone his actions and believe it is absolutely appalling and he should be punished. This feature is not for clickbait, but genuinely because we feel it is an issue that should be addressed.
However – and rightly so there is global condemnation of what he did – it does raise several interesting points around the actions of Zouma’s and West Ham’s sponsors.
Adidas has suspended its sponsorship of the player, while Vitality Life and Experience Kissimmee have stopped sponsoring West Ham, which will have a financial impact on both the player and the club and will certainly make them stand up and take notice. It is certainly brave and admirable from all three brands but being devil’s advocate, one might suggest there are a few inconsistencies in taking this action.
Yes, what Zouma did is awful and playing him before he was punished by the club or anyone else was a mistake, but in the grand scheme of what else is happening in society and in particular sport there is a clear inconsistency with brand action.
As an example, where was the pulling of brand sponsorship when former England and Chelsea star John Terry was found quilty of racially abusing a black player. Yes, he was banned for four games and received a large fine, but none of his sponsors distanced themselves from him and the club at the time. Despite his boot deal with Umbro ending at the same time as the verdict, he was still able to move to another brand.
Equally where was the pulling of brand sponsorship from various footballing nations such as Russia, who disapprove of LGBT rights and make it hard from this community to live in peace in the country, and where is the brand sponsorship suspension from the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, a nation who openly class females as second-class citizens, have an atrocious human rights record and homosexuality is illegal. We are still set to see lots of sponsorship around this event and Adidas is one of its biggest.
Yes, what Zouma did is indefensible, but by brands taking action against him and his club they have a set a very respectful and right precedent. However, it needs to be applied consistently against offenders of other heinous acts. Surely being part of an event in a country that has complete disdain and disregard for certain parts of its society and implements death as a potential punishment for sexual orientation is a worse crime?
It’s fantastic that brands are taking a stand against Zouma, but it needs to be more consistent.
It will be interesting to see what happens going forwards and the thinking of brands involvement in football and sport in general, how they align with individuals and global sporting events because the world is watching and expecting now.