By now you are surely aware of the infamous publicity stunt pulled by the smalltime internet company owned by a Bronco fan that has succeeded in turning his previously unknown firm into a familiar (if only for fifteen minutes) name. An online pawn shop (hey, that has to be reputable, right?) dumped several thousand Butterfingers candy bars in Copley Square in front of a sign stating ‘thank you Wes Welker’, obviously mocking Welker, the Patriots and their fans after Sunday night’s Super Bowl loss. As an added insult to our collective intelligence it was accompanied by their official statement on twitter, “we’re giving Boston a late morning snack to get over Sunday’s loss #butterfingers”. When the region responded negatively the response was more or less, ‘come on, it was funny; just a good-natured joke’.
In the first several hours after the incident took place that was exactly the same reaction from almost all of the media across the country that had taken notice up to that point. Almost all descriptions were similarly phrased: ‘clever’, ‘funny’, ‘shrewd’; it was portrayed as a harmless prank by an ingenious marketer. The closest thing to a negative comment was in Forbes, where a writer questioned if it might cause a loss of some potential customers in the Boston area.
My first question is this: if someone had done something similar to this to Billy Cundiff or Kyle Williams – two players with far more egregious miscues in the conference championship games two weeks ago – how would the public have reacted? I guarantee you that the media as well as fans nationwide would have reacted swiftly and loudly in one unified voice that there was no gray line in the matter, and that the publicity stunt would not be tolerated.
So why the double standard? The only conclusion I can think of is this: because it’s the Patriots. The message: you can do or say anything you want, no matter how despicable if it is aimed at the Patriots organization.
For several years now the media, and finally the NFL decried negative off-field incidents by its players primarily because of the message that was being sent to the nation’s youth. Players, whether they wanted to be or not, were considered heroes and role model by their most impressionable and most loved fans. Younger fans saw and heard what they did on and off the field, and from that formed an opinion about sportsmanship, and what was right and wrong.
At the same time our country’s schools battled an epidemic of bullying, trying to teach their students that bullying is never okay and cannot be tolerated in any circumstance. While Welker and fans of the Patriots may be adults, the message of public tolerance to Pawngo outside of New England is clear: it’s okay to bully and humiliate someone else; after all, ‘it’s all in good fun – it’s just a joke’. Tolerance of this stunt and laughing at it is sending the wrong message; this type of behavior is not acceptable on any level.
The girl in the promo photo with the big smile on her face, her photographer and the others at the scene on behalf of the PR firm involved should consider themselves to be very lucky that this did not get out of hand. Â When I think of the crew I used to go to Pats games with, along with the rest of the crowd at Schaefer Stadium about thirty years ago, if those people witnessed this disgraceful stunt then every one of those involved would still be in Mass General having candy bars surgically removed from every orifice on their body.
Unfortunately somebody out there is going to see this event, think ‘wow, what great free publicity’, and decide to do something similar – but while also feeling a need to top it and go one step beyond. And at some point the end result is going to be very ugly for all involved.
Obviously nobody should ever do any business with Pawngo. They exercised their freedom of speech; now I am going to exercise mine. I have, and will continue to let Pawngo know what I think of them, their actions, and their phony apologies; I suggest you do the same.
Main Number: (866) 499-2363
CEO/Founder Todd Hills: (720) 320-7777
CFO/Founder Jim McHose: (303) 790-9500
Also, it should be noted that Pawngo is funded by venture capital provided by Groupon. While Groupon does not own Pawngo, I would suggest considering applying pressure to Groupon (as well as any business that uses Groupon) until Groupon withdraws their investment in Pawngo.
The weak and insincere apology issued from Pawngo since their act is an affront to my intelligence. There only motivation is because there has been an obvious disruption to their business. When you have a moment, please let them know what you think, and please let every other fan know that this type of publicity stunt cannot and will not be tolerated, forgiven, or forgotten.