World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, of Spain, has been criticized by leading sports Australian journalist Greg Baum for making certain demands before agreeing to do an interview in a column for the Sydney Morning Herald. Baum says he was offered the chance to interview Nadal one-on-one this week ahead of the Australian Open - but the interview came with strings attached - "The interview would last 10 minutes, 15 max.
The questions to be asked would have to be submitted in advance. And one would have to be about a travel insurance agency that is sponsoring Nadal. The subsequent story would have to carry a tagline at the end noting Nadal’s involvement with the sponsor.
A tagline is not so unusual, and normally is just that, a line. But this one was 50 words. Any wordier and it would be called a section. That’s not all, far from it. The story would have to include a high-res image from the insurance company’s campaign.
That is, its ad, dressed up as editorial. It would also have to include a picture of Nadal at a press conference taken against the backdrop of the company’s “branded media wall”." While Baum says the points were not posed as demands but as questions, he says it was implied that the interview would be agreed upon only if the demands were adhered to.
Baum said he finally declined the interview and says he wonders if Nadal knows about the demands being made while agreeing to the interview. "Does Nadal know about these machinations in his name? He should. Ingenue that he sometimes seems, he’s too big a figure in tennis to represent himself as merely a pawn in a game.
Does he care? He really should. The guy has earned around $170 million in his career, and you can quadruple that for endorsements, so this sort of chicanery only makes him look greedy. If (insert name of latest sponsor) really matters so much to him, he can buy an ad.
He can buy the bloody paper. Does it matter? Yes, it does. It goes to the heart of editorial independence, and the way some think they can ride roughshod over it. The Australian Open is a big event, Nadal nearly its biggest star.
In both, there is an abiding public interest far outweighing the commercial. That should be terms and conditions enough for an interview. However much the insurance agency might think Nadal belongs to them, he doesn’t. All sports ration out their stars to media now.
At one level, that is only to be expected: demand is enormous. But of the sports I cover, only tennis - the richest sport of all - puts a price on its stars (and make no mistake, Nadal was not being volunteered to us, he was being sold to us - or the highest bidder). Remember, this interview was offered, not sought."