Patrick Kane, one of the most marketable stars in recent Chicago sports history, might have trouble finding endorsement deals even in the wake of the Erie County district attorney’s decision not to file charges against him.
Kane was taken off the cover of EA Sports’ popular NHL ’16 video game after reports of the sexual-assault allegation against him surfaced in August. His other primary sponsors, including McDonald’s, Chevrolet, Gatorade and Bauer, did not sever ties with the Blackhawks superstar, but had little or nothing to say about the investigation.
Even though Kane has not been charged, ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell said it could take time for him to win back image-conscious corporate executives. He compared it with Kobe Bryant, who had a rape charge dropped and a civil suit settled in 2004, but lost his endorsement with McDonald’s, among others.
“I don’t think he will be completely unaffected by this, fair or not,” Rovell said. “I do think there will be people who have made judgments, and [despite] the fact that basically the whole case against him has been dropped, I think there will still be people who still don’t give him the benefit of the doubt in the marketplace. And the truth is, fair or not, the better he is, the more the Blackhawks win, the smaller that group of people is.”
Rovell said Kane possibly could have legal recourse against EA Sports for dropping him from the cover, depending on the wording of any morals clause in the contract. He added that the Hawks took a great risk by allowing Kane to play, to keep selling his jerseys, and by having him make public appearances, such as at Notre Dame and Bears football games.
“I do think that the Blackhawks put themselves in a position of potentially significant exposure, how they did not lower Patrick’s profile,” Rovell said. “I feel like the people who said this is bad that they’re not telling him to take a back seat, they’re quieter now. It’s hard to determine what’s right or wrong. But given how gold their brand is, even though he’s one of their stars, they didn’t need to go that far out.”