KUMAR SANGAKKARA, CRICKET & ETHICS

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There was an article in one of the English dailies in Lanka, 'The Island' on Jan. 22nd, 2009 under the by-line of Revata S. Silva in his 'Reverse Swing'. He had made a scathing attack on Kumar Sangakkara, which raises many questions to my mind.

This column is about cricket and appears in the 'Sports' page. Yet it is one of the most 'UNSPORTY' articles i have read recently. Even among all sports, cricket is considered still as the 'Gentleman's game'. It is altogether a different issue whether the people who invented and developed this game could be considered gentlemen. Whether cricket itself could be considered a 'Sport' today or as a business, is another issue which i would not want to comment here.

The fact remains that Sangakkara, like most other cricketers and sportspersons, had been promoting various brands. He is also not the only sportsperson in the world to have changed brand loyalty over the years.

Before we talk about the ethics of changing brand loyalty, we have to consider how ethical advertising itself is. Advertising has become a necessary evil. None of the media, printed or electronic would be able to survive today without advertising. Thus we cannot blame the media for towing the line of the advertising companies who support them.

In the end it is the consumer who pays for all the advertising, and who pay the celebrities for their promotions. When we read a newspaper, we pay for the advertisements they carry in their paper. The consumers have no choice in the form of advertisements or other promotional activities. The only way a consumer could have some say is by using the produce advertised or by rejecting it.

I agree whole heartedly with Revata S Silva in what he says about TV advertising and what has been done in France. However, in this open and competitive world of business, would it ever be possible to ban all advertising? Sarkozy could do it with state television in France, because the state could continue to run the TV stations with the money from the people of his country.

If people consider that what Sangakkara has done by changing his brand loyalty is wrong or unethical, they can refuse to use the new brand and send their message to Sangakkara and also to the advertising agent.

In a world where everyone has the freedom of choice, who are we to tell Sangakkara that once he decides to promote any particular brand, that he has to be loyal to that brand for a life time? In a world, where people could divorce one spouse and marry another, could change from one political party to another, could move from one country to another and seek citizenship of the new country, where people could change from one religious faith to another, how could it be unethical to change a brand loyalty.

However, i also agree with Revata S Silva that money talks and the habit of selling knows no ethics. If we talk of ethics and 'selling even their mothers', then cricketers should not even accept any money from the Cricket Board, or sign contracts and fight for higher payments. Because they are said to be playing for their country, they are doing their patriotic duty. If accepting money to play for one's country is ethical, then accepting money for promoting a commercial product should also be ethical.

The article referred to http://www.island.lk/2009/01/22/sports6.html

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