During NFL training camp season, Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King has trundled from site to site on a bus provided by EvoShield, a "Game-Changing Protective Apparel" company. If EvoShield did this in the hope that King would mention EvoShield a few times, he more than delivered: In all, between Twitter and his column and the magazine and even a video, King has referred to EvoShield by name 33 times since July 30, and a few more if you count variations like "the Georgia-based athletic company." This was often enough that he felt compelled today to issue an apology in today's Monday Morning Quarterback column. After the mea culpa, he addressed those who thought he was taking money from EvoShield and denied the allegation.
I think, for those who (rightfully) chided me last week for my nine uses of "EvoShield'' in the column, I accept your criticism of me using EvoShield excessively and promise I won't use EvoShield again except when absolutely necessary to use EvoShield. Kidding, kidding. Seriously — I was excessive in my mentions of the firm.
Here's what happens at the this time of year: I write the column in chunks during training camp, and when I write something Tuesday night, I often don't recall everything exactly how it's written, so the thing I might write two nights later could include references that will appear redundant when the whole thing is read together. Again, my fault.
Anyway, for those who wondered about whether I get paid per mention of the protective-equipment company, I don't; I'm not paid at all by the company. Sports Illustrated and the company made a business deal to allow me to use their 30-foot van to travel around the country to NFL camps. In exchange for using the van to make the driving portion of my training camp trip, part of the deal was to refer to the trip as the "SI-EvoShield NFL Training Camp trip'' when I wrote about it in this column. Which I have done.
Indeed. Here's King's first mention of EvoShield, in a tweet that summarizes his column for that day:
Sure enough, King's July 30 story explains EvoShield's heavy presence over the next few weeks, though the brief devolves into ad-speak pretty quickly [bolding ours, after the headline, and from here on out]:
The week ahead, as EvoShield joins our merry band
Should be a fun week. On Wednesday, I change from a flying to driving journey, and we christen the 2012 SI-EvoShield Training Camp Trip and begin to ride around America in a cool van owned by the Georgia-based athletic protection company EvoShield. It's a five-year-old company that makes protective apparel and gear for more than 250 college and pro teams. Robert Griffin III will continue to use the ultra-light EvoShield padding this year in Washington. They've shown me the stuff, which is beyond what I ever thought I'd see players protect themselves with — gel pads that mold to different bodies in minutes, then become part of what the players wear. My buddy Will Carroll, the injury-expert maven, put me together with EvoShield's chief innovation officer, Justin Niefer, and EvoShield generously agreed to let us use its state-of-the-art van as we tool first around the southeast, then the northeast and midwest, over the next three weeks.
Over the next few days, King @'s EvoShield's official Twitter account three times, and even sends the company a picture of himself working.
Didn't have a chance to eat with the Dolphins, but the SI-EvoShield road trip, which began with this camp stop, meandered to Flanigan's Seafood Bar and Grill for a tasty blackened tilapia sandwich on a bun (B-plus) and cole slaw (C-minus, way too runny), along with a Diet Coke with lemon.
On the same day, King's "Reflecting on Reid's tragedy; nuggets from Week 2 of my tour", introduces a segment with, "Headlines of the day, before I get to Week 2 of the SI-EvoShield NFL Training Camp Tour".
"We just hit 1,000 miles,'' SI staffer Matt Gagne said this morning around 1:30 as we busted it for northern Virginia toward Redskins camp. It feels like it. Matt and fellow driver Jack Ford, a Villanova kid working for SI this summer, have been terrific on the SI-EvoShield NFL Training Camp Trip, sponsored by the five-year-old Georgia-based company making protective gear for athletes. Jack's been a horse, handling the entire Davie-to-Tampa and Tampa-to-Jacksonville and Jacksonville-to-Atlanta drives on back-to-back-to-back days.
The same day, a couple more mentions of EvoShield on Twitter:
In the Bucs' cafeteria, the PR staff put Team SI (We're on the SI-EvoShield Training Camp Trip, with a party of five) in a side room so we could grill Josh Freeman. And grill a turkey burger. I had the grilled turkey burger on a wheat roll with raw onion, lettuce and tomato (B-plus), along with a mixed salad with balsamic (C; the lettuce was a tad on the other side of ripe), and a bottle of fruit punch G2. Grade: B.
Also on the sixth, SI posted this video, in which Peter King and fellow SI writer Matt Gagne happen to film a Q&A in front of the EvoShield bus. The video starts,
"Hi, Peter King with Sports Illustrated, here with Matt Gagne, my fellow Sports Illustrated writer. Were here on our SI-EvoShield training camp tour— you see the van behind us,
we've been going around the country thanks to EvoShield—we're going to answer your Twitter questions today."
Two more EvoShield Twitter-mentions to cap off the day:
The mentions pick up five days later:
The van we're driving around the country in is courtesy of EvoShield, the protective-equipment manufacturer. It's got a huge photo of Griffin, one of their pad-wearers, on the side. When I saw Griffin Thursday night in Buffalo, I patted him on the side and wished him well. And there the rib-protectors were.
Memo to EvoShield: The world's watching. If Griffin runs 100 or so times this year and stays upright, we're all buying your stock.
"A lot of people don't want to wear the traditional rib-protectors because they make them look fat,'' Griffin said. "These ... you can't even tell you have them on, and you're also protecting your body the best way you can, rather than them sliding all over the place.''
Griffin looked great running in this practice. One advantage: He had the red shirt on. No one could touch him. Look at a 15-day stretch in October on the Redskins' schedule. Jared Allen, the Giants, James Harrison. I'm thinking Griffin might want a bullet-proof vest as well as the EvoShield [...]
Phase one of the SI-EvoShield Training Camp is over [...]
Just before 3 a.m. Friday, the SI-EvoShield NFL Training Camp Tour docked in Sandusky, Ohio, and I roused myself and walked to the front desk of one of the local hotels [...]
Sometimes you're on a grinder of a trip — which this SI-EvoShield NFL Training Camp has been, even though it's been tremendously educational and fun — and you build in what you hope will be a relaxing night in which the subject is something other than whether the Jets will be OK at right tackle with Wayne Hunter [...]
"Sometimes when your expectations are low for something, those are the best times, because you smash them so far out of sight,'' said Hornsby, walking out to the EvoShield van [...]
I think, and it's long overdue, I owe the lads at Ourlads Scouting Services thanks for their work on this camp tour. Not that they're driving the EvoShield van or tucking me in at night on the road in the various inns of America, but the tattered pages of the Ourlads Guide to the NFL Draft and Free Agency attest to how good Ourlads' work is [...]
I think I need to get buried in writing before going back out Wednesday, but here's the next round of camps on the SI-EvoShield Training Camp Trip [...]
Leaving Washington's camp, we found a shop, Total Wine, with Bell's Oberon Ale. I'd only had this once, a couple of years ago, but had fond memories of it. Wasn't disappointed sitting in the back of the EvoShield van on the way to Giants' camp, writing and having a couple [...]
In King's column for the magazine (which hit newsstands on Aug. 15), "This One Time At Training Camp" (sub req'd), he writes,
"Phase two [of the training camp tour] [...] was in a luxury van provided by the protective-gear manufacturer EvoShield, and which included the company of Team SI [...] Why the van? Summer storms, airline problems—you name the hiccup, I've encountered it. A few years ago I was stuck at Orlando International for eight hours and had to cancel a trip to see the Saints, and I've thought ever since how great it would be to get a van—and a driver—so that I could write in transit. Our 30-foot Ford features power outlets for our phones, laptops and wireless modem, plus a cushy black recliner from which I wrote portions of my Monday Morning Quarterback column, for SI.com, and concocted this list of awards from first 19 days on the road."
In MMQB, King includes the apology we started off with. But he also ventures a defense of his rather insubstantial interview with Robert Griffin III quoted above:
Now, regarding the question I asked Robert Griffin III about wearing the company's gear last week, I'll defend that journalistically, because the padding is a different, lighter, less obtrusive kind of rib padding that I think could be part of his story this year — simply because if a 217-pound quarterback leaves the pocket a lot (which I believe Griffin will do) then how he is protected when he leaves the pocket, and the fact that this gear is new and different from the NFL norm, could end up being significant. And that's whether he plays out the year uninjured or misses time because of injury. That's probably more than you wanted to know, but in the interest of full disclosure, there it is.
There it is. King isn't corrupt. He just loves brands. We knew that already—Starbucks! Amtrak! Saranac Pumpkin Ale! Harpoon Rasp Hefeweizen!—but this episode really reveals just how natural a pitchman Peter King really is.
Last week, the folks at EvoShield didn't respond to our request for comment—except to shoot back, "Who are you? Why do you want to know?" when we asked what the company received in exchange for lending Sports Illustrated the bus—but they evidently recognized the boon that was Peter King's favor. On Thursday, the official EvoShield Twitter account retweeted this:
Unfortunately for EvoShield, it looks like its run of cheap advertising is over. King, for the first time in a while, failed to make any reference to EvoShield in today's column until his apology, and he even avoided saying the company's name while explaining the Griffin question. Most everyone's nomenclatural concerns have vanished, except this one: Why does Peter King insist on calling a 30-foot coach a "van"?