Russell Wilson took a hard hit to the head in the NFC Championship game last year against the Green Bay Packers. His team, the Seattle Seahawks, won the game, but would Wilson, the team’s star quarterback, recover in time for the next game? That game, by the way, goes by the name The Super Bowl.
“The next day I was fine,” Wilson told Rolling Stone. “It was the water.”
Wilson was referring to a product called Reliant Recovery Water, a pseudoscientific concoction of “nano bubbles and electrolytes” that Wilson is convinced helps heal athletic injury. “I know it works,” he enthused to Rolling Stone. “Soon you’ll be able to order it straight from Amazon.”
If enough people buy the water, Wilson will become even richer than he already is, because he is an investor in the company. Some of you might think that Wilson is a quack, deceiving us for his own personal gain. But I expect that Wilson sincerely believes in the benefits of recovery water. Nevertheless as a wealthy and famous celebrity, he should either divest from the company or stop spouting off about the wonders of this bogus product. With fame comes responsibility, and Wilson’s endorsement is irresponsible and risks harming the people unlucky enough to believe his claims.
To understand how I’ve come to this conclusion, bear with me while I lay out some important distinctions.
First off, we need to distinguish between stupidity and ignorance. By no measure that I’m aware of could Russell Wilson be called a stupid man. He managed to graduate from college in 3 years, while playing both football and baseball at a division 1 school, North Carolina State, known for the rigor of its academics. And now he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, quarterback being one of the most intellectually demanding positions in all of competitive sports. As a quarterback, Wilson has to quickly read opposing defenses, even as those defenses use elaborate methods to mask their intentions, and then even more quickly he has to react to the play as it unfolds, while avoided the bone-crushing efforts of the 300-pounders rushing in his direction. What I’m trying to say is – Russell Wilson is a very smart dude!
But Russell Wilson is also ignorant. He doesn’t know enough about medical science to judge the merits or demerits of Recovery Water. Ignorance is nothing to be embarrassed about. All of us are ignorant. I am completely ignorant about the history of Zimbabwe, know next to nothing about the difference between Merlot and Cabinet Sauvignon, can’t tell the difference between a nickelback and safety, and can’t describe the functioning of a carbonator to save my life. Ignorance is the dominant way of life for us human beings. Part of wisdom, however, is recognizing our own ignorance – knowing when to talk like experts and when to keep our opinions to ourselves.
Which raises a second distinction – between Russell Wilson’s watery pronouncements and Dr. Mehmet Oz’s many enthusiastic product endorsements. Oz has justifiably received extensive criticism in recent months, for making unsubstantiated claims about many products he discusses on his popular television show. Unlike Wilson, however, Oz ought to know better than to make these claims. You see, Oz isn’t ignorant about medical science. Instead, he is an accomplished physician on the medical faculty of an Ivy League school. But in an effort to, I don’t know, get higher ratings or find new things to talk about on his show (how often can you tell people: “Eat less and exercise more!”), or to sell products he has a financial stake in, Oz keeps spouting what he has to know to be nonsense. Oz is not ignorant when making these claims. He’s calculatedly misleading his viewers. He deserves none of our respect.
By contrast, Russell Wilson probably believes wholeheartedly in the wonders of his nano bubbly beverage. He is not a quack, like Oz. Instead he’s just a smart celebrity who got himself involved in something he doesn’t understand.
Which brings me to my final distinction – between celebrity endorsements and paid celebrity endorsements. (To read the rest of this article, please visit Forbes.)