Last week, John Daly was taken to a county jail in North Carolina after police were summoned and found him outside a Hooters "extremely intoxicated and uncooperative."
Since then, Hooters has made no comment, other than franchises in four states announcing a few days later that they will be giving customers their own stimulus package by offering $1 domestic drafts every day. (True story. It's available in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, if you're interested.)
The fact that Daly was drunk isn't news. The 42-year-old golfer has battled alcoholism his entire life. What is news is that he was discovered outside a Hooters. It's news because Hooters has been one of Daly's most steady sponsors since 2005, a time period in which Daly has failed to win a single tournament.
The result of all this? The most intriguing sponsorship dilemma since Nike stuck by Kobe Bryant after his sexual assault charge after so many other companies decided to pass on renewing his contracts.
Hooters has kept quiet. The company's vice president of marketing Mike McNeil didn't immediately return our call and Daly's agent Bud Martin wouldn't comment on how Daly's actions would perhaps change the relationship with the beer and wings spot.
Daly, of all the people, has been the only one to say anything, surprisingly telling GOLF.com that Hooters would "probably have to terminate me because of the negative publicity." "I've never had an incident at Hooters," Daly told the Web site. "I hate that their name is brought into it this way."
On the surface, you'd think that Hooters has to drop Daly. All signs pointed to him getting "overserved" at one of their establishments. But it's not that easy. For one, Hooters knows exactly who John Daly is. He's the every man. That's why they signed him. He's a very risky proposition. That's why despite mistake after mistake they are still with him.
Then, there's the authenticity argument. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have a thing for athlete endorsement fraud—when athletes get paid to endorse one product or service but are caught using the competitor. That part of me that loves that this happened at a Hooters. If the guy is going to have some drinks and perhaps have some wings, he's doing it at the place that sponsors him. It would have been pretty easy for Daly to do this exact same thing at a Buffalo Wild Wings.
I just did a quick Mapquest. The Hooters I believe he was sitting outside of in Winston-Salem is a 40 second car ride from the Buffalo Wild Wings. So, sure, it's uncomfortable that John Daly was apparently drunk. But give me another instance where a consumer would find out that Daly really uses this product.
The other difficult part of this is that while you could draw the conclusion that Daly was arrested, he actually wasn't. Winston-Salem police said that he had no other means of transportation so he was brought to the jail for 24 hours to sober up. For some strange reason, someone put Daly in an orange shirt, as if he were a criminal, and released a photo of him in the outfit.
John Daly has good representation. I assume his endorsement contract doesn't have vague language about negative publicity. It's probably more specific with conviction a condition of rightful termination. On the flip side, Daly's contract can't be that big that if Hooters management really thought this was an issue they wouldn't just get rid of him and pay whatever price they had to pay.
But I'm not sure what happened was detrimental to the brand of Hooters, which has had a rough time generating standard publicity among the sports world this year after the NYRA rejected a deal for Big Brown's jockey Kent Desormeaux to wear their logo during the Belmont Stakes. Two months earlier, the NCAA rejected a Hooters ad featuring Dick Vitale in the Final Four game program.
The fact that it has been 10 days since the incident and the company has done nothing suggests that they could actually stick by Daly's side.
More from SportsBiz
- Pepsi is “Amp’d” Up About Earnhardt
- Two College Rivalries With Vastly Different Ticket Prices
Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com