Nascar driver fired for racial slur: do your contracts protect your reputation?

Ex-Nascar driver Kyle Larson recently went viral for using a racial slur during a live stream iRacing video game. The act led to Larson being dropped by his main sponsors, McDonald’s and Credit One Bank, and ultimately being dismissed from the Chip Ganassi racing team.

Larson’s case highlights what many have been aware of for some time, the rising importance of on-line sports and sports star’s position as influencers for good and bad.  This channel for competition and entertainment can not only add significant value to all participants but can also cause significant damage which can play out time and time again.

Promoters, Sponsors, Teams and Drivers need to consider how far and to what extent the virtual impacts the real and vice versa. In today’s global online landscape, news can become a viral phenomenon within minutes. The current pandemic has also highlighted the sport’s transition deeper into the virtual world, with the rise of e-sports and e-gaming moving the boundaries of a driver’s potential and real role and value.

These considerations need to be reflected in the agreements between all participants.  The Teams should also take time to clarify the agreed relationship and the possible consequences of breaking that agreement.  All agreements will contain a damage to reputation clause but is it fit for purpose?  Who decides whether reputation has been damaged or not and whose reputation? Is it only the driver’s actions? What about the wider family? What are the consequences with regard to future races and payments or compensation?

Many agreements will prohibit a driver from participating in other racing events but does this or should this include e-sports?  Should this be an active part of the agreement or a prohibited space? What about anonymity or revenues through YouTube and similar?

Key legal agreements should be carefully drafted with consideration of all of the above factors, to adequately protect the reputations of those involved. It is also essential to keep any long-term or rolling agreements under review to ensure that they sufficiently meet your business’ needs in a fast-changing technological and legal landscape.

How Blaser Mills Law can help?

For contract reviews and tailored expert legal advice on protecting your business’ reputation, please get in touch with the Commercial team on 020 3814 2020 or contact Robert Cain at [email protected].