Newmann: Image is … everything |

Newmann: Image is … everything

“Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.” — Mark Twain

Or suppose you were a huckster and suppose you were a former occupant of the White House; but … well, no point in going any further with that scenario.

Politicians these days have a tough road to travel. You almost have to feel sorry for them. They work so hard — and so selflessly. And all they get in return is hearing their words, and their intents, twisted and mangled at every juncture. Often by themselves. It’s really tough to keep track of all the backtracking. Or know when — or how — you’ll change course when you don’t even have a midstream to change in. And it takes a lot of creativity to keep being creative when any substance is, well, not very substantial.

Boy, these folks can really have a rough time of it.

But they may be able to better their images — and their finances — by following the unwitting lead of that bastion of higher education, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (commonly known as the NCAA).

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For years and years, the NCAA prohibited college athletes from accepting any payment for their on-field or on-court services. After all, these folks were not just run-of-the-mill athletes. They were student-athletes, dedicated to their schools, their sports and, maybe, their classrooms. Any form of payment for their services would sully the reputations, and the very purity, of their schools — and, horror of horrors, of the NCAA.

Well, that all changed in 2021 when the Supreme Court ruled that student-athletes could be compensated. The court’s ruling opened the door for these scholarly sportspeople to receive payment for name, image and likeness. With virtually no limits on that compensation. Seems quite fair since these kids, who have spent years honing their skills, actually benefit the institutions for which they’re playing.

Ironically, NIL also seems like a great concept for the politically inclined. But in a slightly different way than with the NCAA kids. Skill, proficiency or competence … well, they might be an afterthought. Just put your name out there. And your image. And your likeness. And tie it all to anything you think your constituency might go for (regardless if you believe in it or not). Remember to keep your NIL at the forefront. And keep telling the folks that you’re playing for them. Even if you’re not.

Keep plugging along and, before long, you’ll develop your own cult of NIL. And then the money will start rolling in.

How much money? Well, the same court that sided with compensation for student-athletes also ruled in 2010 that political donations to candidates could be unlimited. Wow! Talk about a field of dreams. And a perpetual financial season for both college athletes and political players.

The irony is that if pay-for-play is measured by actual performance … well, pretty sure we know who the winner between those two NIL entities would be.

Tom Newmann splits his time between Edwards and Queenstown, New Zealand. He has been going winter-to-winter since 1986. He was also a journalist in Missoula, Montana, at the Missoulian for quite a few years. Email him at

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