Crime pays. Today, we find out that AEG has locked themselves into association with one of America's most shameful pyramid schemes for the next decade. So I took down my vanity site a few months ago, which had some old blog posts, little realizing that I might need to refer back to research I had done earlier. For example, back in 2007 I made a couple of posts about the Galaxy's successor sponsor to Budweiser, and concluded that the Galaxy, MLS and AEG had gotten in bed with a bunch of criminals.
Here's something amusing I learned re-researching this depressing topic. You run a Google search along the lines of "Herbalife scam," and interspersed with the truth you get more than a few "personal" sites purporting to present unbiased reviews and analysis of whether selling Herbalife is a bad idea or not. You might notice nearly all of these sites have suspiciously similar wording, which leads me to believe that these good-hearted citizens are working from a template provided to them from Herbalife Corporate.
(From personal experience, I know that actual grass-roots Herbalife defenders are, with the possible exception of men's rights activists, the sleaziest, dumbest, most worthless passel of genetic drift it has been my hilarious misfortune to mock. Compared to the best Herbalife defenders, Vince McMahon's "This is the XFL!" speech was the Book of Ecclesiastes.)
Fortunately, even though renting out David Beckham buys an awful lot of pig lipstick, it's still possible to get the other side of the story. From, say, here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here. Or this little bit of reading from the Federal Trade Commission. Hell, even their Wikipedia page is comedy gold. Tell me more about your healthy living company, multi-level marketer whose founder died of a drug overdose.
It's worth reminding people at this point that literally the only difference between Herbalife and Bernie Madoff is that, as long as there is a tangible product involved, multi-level marketing pyramid schemes are perfectly legal. This is why Amway and Xango are still in business, too.
And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.
Kurt Vonnegut, "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater."
By now it's reasonably safe to say that MLS, AEG, and the David Beckham management team (a) know all this and (b) don't care.
Well, it's a jungle out there. Manchester United was sponsored by the American taxpayer there for a year or so. Shifty little online gambling sites dot the most famous shirts in Europe, and once-proud Barcelona wears the name of a fake charity sponsored by a human rights wasteland. Gotta pay Messi somehow, I suppose.
And if Barcelona's brand and fan base are so impregnable that even figuratively covering the jersey with the blood of innocents doesn't hinder the march to glory, then what's so bad about the Galaxy wetting their beaks?
Well, my problem in 2007 is the same as it is today - the Galaxy are still a growing brand. They've leeched themselves onto the David Beckham Public Relations Exploding Plastic Inevitable, and everyone involved has profited quite handsomely, but that doesn't mean that the Galaxy yet have a lasting and independent sporting identity. By the time they do have one, once Beckham finally leaves, the Los Angeles Galaxy will have the better part of a decade worth of publicity and marketing where the biggest word is "Beckham" and the second-biggest word is "Herbalife." Barcelona can survive the Qatar Foundation, although they probably shouldn't. Maybe the Galaxy can wipe the stink of Herbalife off their jerseys, too - but after fifteen years, stains tend to set.
I think we've also proven that the Beckham circus does not confer legitimacy on those His Highness surrounds. I hate to pick on a new sponsor and a smallish business, but the Galaxy have a new soft drink sponsor. Perhaps some of you out there haven't heard of Shasta Cola. Basically, it's what Insane Clown Posse fans drink when they can't afford Faygo. In case you were wondering, both Pepsi and Budweiser are still MLS sponsors.
The Galaxy do have legitimate sponsors, or at least sponsors who can sell their products over the counter legally. And I don't want to blackguard the poor folks whose job it is to sell Shasta, but they know what they're selling. So does the Galaxy. The fact that the only soda products you can actually buy at Galaxy games are from the Coca-Cola company suggests to me that AEG will take money from literally anyone, and associate with literally anyone.
So what, the Galaxy are set for the next ten years. That's one or two Designated Players every year, right there. Cost of doing business.
Fine, except...here's what really annoyed me.
The Galaxy and Herbalife also announced today that as part of the extension agreement, $2.5 million will go toward supporting charitable efforts between the Los Angeles Galaxy Foundation and the Herbalife Family Foundation to benefit vulnerable and underserved children. In conjunction with this initiative, the LA Galaxy and Herbalife have announced a joint program benefitting Children’s Institute, Inc. (CII), which will see the organization receive a $1 million donation to support fitness and nutrition programs at a new facility CII is planning in Watts, Calif. In addition, players from the Galaxy, Herbalife independent distributors and employees from both organizations will provide volunteer support to other CII locations.
And that's a wonderful way to spend 1/44th of the deal's value. Really, it is. It's very nice. Nice enough that you'd think this would be part of the M.L.S. Works purview - you remember, when they ran a contest to give away fifty grand. Wow, MLS has come into some money since the dark days of 2010. Am I going to sit here and cynically suggest that either MLS or Herbalife could conceivably have dropped a million into CII's hat without using the other as cover?
Damn right I am. I had this little Facebook exchange with whoever the poor sucker was in charge of making posts tonight. It's a thankless job, being a finger puppet, and I almost felt bad about going off on the poor wee lamb and/or ewe, except - well, here, read:
The important things to emphasize here are: 1) the length of the contract and what that ultimately says about the stability of our league now; and 2) the incredible community component tied into this partnership. If you remember, the team had an amazing experience at an orphanage in the Philippines in the postseason tied into Herbalife's Family Foundation
I understand why they deleted my comment - my follow-up is still up - but I stand by the points I raise, which I made in rather rude fashion. I'll try to reproduce it as best I can:
So, wait, if it wasn't for Herbalife, you would have blown off the orphans? It was only the Thin Green Line that kept you from coming out with jerseys with "Fuck Orphans!" on the front? Or was it the other way round - did you leave money on the table, because Herbalife was the only company that was sufficiently pro-orphan? When you asked Budweiser, did they say "Orphans? Who gives a shit about orphans?!" Help me out here.
Now, I'm not saying that the Galaxy don't really care about orphans.
(The Galaxy don't care about orphans, by the way. If it weren't for those fascists at the Food and Drug Administration, they'd be serving bacon-wrapped orphan at the Home Depot Center, and we all know it. They're Modest Proposalicious!)
And maybe my language was a bit salty, if not as salty as a delicious bacon-wrapped orphan. But the fact remains that both Herbalife and AEG have more than enough money to do this sort of thing on their own. If the Galaxy were trying to make the Children's Institute initiative seem like cover for the blatantly unsavory aspects of this sponsorship - or worse still, a PR-friendly tax writeoff - then mission accomplished. If you want to help orphans, then by all means, help orphans - but don't turn around and use those orphans as travel agents to book guilt trips to your fans.
If the Galaxy had simply said "Herbalife offered the most money, we don't think it hurts the brand, and oh by the way, princess, this is a business, and if you want to go back to the minor leagues the Pali Blues are ready when you are," I could respect that. This would still be a post filled with information about how scummy Herbalife is, but hey, this announcement will end up saving me close to two grand in unbought jerseys, so I don't have that much room to complain.
But at least don't patronize the people who are supposed to be patronizing you. You have forty-four million reasons not to care what people think about this sponsorship, and Galaxy fans are impervious to morals at this point in any case. (Lose integrity now! Ask me how!) Don't pretend this was about the community, or the children. For the moment, Google still works.
By the way - this won't jeopardize the possibility of me getting a press pass, will it?