Celebrity spokesdoctor Dr. Mehmet Oz has pushed back against our post this week questioning why he appeared in a promotional ad for the National Football League, given the league’s dubious record on head injuries.
We asked whether it wasn’t irresponsible of America’s most prominent medical authority to promote schoolboy football -- he used his own son as an example -- without at least warning parents of evidence that the sport can produce lasting medical consequences. The post also included the explanation he gave us that he made the spot to convey "the role the game played in my personal ... development” and “the same value in the game as a teaching tool for our son."
In an interview with AdvertisingAge published Thursday, Dr. Oz expanded on those assertions and answered some of our other points. He called our post “unfair.”
He gave the interview Tuesday in Chicago, where he spoke at “a football safety clinic for the mothers of high school players hosted by the Chicago Bears and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell,” AdAge reported.
Among his points was that he didn’t think it was possible to insert a “disclaimer” about head injuries into a 30-second TV spot. “All this pent-up rage about my need to put a disclaimer in,” he said. “How do you put a disclaimer in a 22-second piece about something that you like doing?”
Fair enough, one supposes. Though the solution to the problem of placing a disclaimer about head injuries in a spot glorifying children playing a violent sport might be, hmmm ... let’s see: How about not doing the spot at all? Dr. Oz didn’t seem to think that was an option. As compensation, the NFL contributed $20,000 to an Oz charity and gave him two tickets to next year’s Super Bowl.
Oz objected to the implication that he was endorsing the NFL. “Dr. Oz said he doesn’t endorse anything, period,” AdAge wrote.
This is, of course, balderdash. On his daytime TV show, Oz puts his name and reputation behind patent nostrums and fad diets all the time, promoting them as “breakthroughs” and “miracles.” Can he really claim that his appearance in a TV commercial for the NFL doesn’t constitute an endorsement?
He said he agreed to appear in the ad “because he ‘has a passion’ for the game and, like many parents, had a ‘difficult decision’ to make about allowing his son to play high school football.”
Again, fair enough, but there’s no indication in the spot of any agonizing on the part of Dr. Oz or his wife about their son’s choice to play football. What he says on screen is this: "When my son Oliver told us he wanted to play football, we were thrilled.”
Although he said he appeared at the safety clinic because “we want to use the Moms to make these games safer,” he didn’t explain in AdAge how he expects that to happen. He did, on the other hand, double down on how football builds young men’s character.
“The real decision is: Do you want to replace football with antiquing,” he told AdAge. “It may not be the solution that a lot of Americans want to go with.” Mothers of America dubious about their kids’ school football careers can probably expect to hear an argument along those lines from their husbands and sons. So much for empowering “the Moms” to make the games safer.
Here’s the most telling part: Oz told AdAge he thinks there’s been “some piling on” the NFL over its responsibility for its players’ concussion injuries. That tells you what a $20,000 contribution and two tickets to the Super Bowl can buy. It buys a celebrity’s obliviousness to a problem that led the league to pay $765 million to settle head-injury claims by 18,000 former players. Sure, the league undoubtedly thinks there’s been piling on. Lucky it has Dr. Oz in its corner, and that he came so cheap.