Colin Sheridan: GAA can’t keep ignoring a corporate elephant in the room 

“AIB is backing brave. Backing reckless didn’t quite work out for them” 

Those familiar with the FX series Atlanta will know it as a brilliant, often challenging watch. It’s the story of a bunch of friends from one of America’s most divided cities. The side of the divide that its two protagonists – rapper Paperboi and his cousin/manager Earn – are on is that of the poor and underrepresented. Two black, world weary twentysomethings, as talented as they are cynical, a musical breakthrough leads to opportunity and a window into a world unnatural to them – that of sycophancy and excess. 

Yes men. Corporate interference. Soul-selling. In episode three of the latest series, Earn and Paperboi find themselves in a billionaire’s house, behind a series of decoy houses, somewhere in the London suburb of Hackney. True artists, they are conflicted by the duplicity of the guests – all on the take, all sucking up to the billionaire and his milieu of minions, all hoping to prove they are worthy of a soft touch, a grant of sorts, a handout. 

Earn, keen to advance the cause of the black artist, stumbles upon a kid whose art is so bad it couldn’t be good. Aghast at the chutzpah of the fraudulent imposter and the stupidity of the rich fools who fund him, he questions the morals of the hustle. Earn’s conscience is finally appeased by the artist himself telling him “if this fool wants to pay for the culture, then let him…”.

AIB, and others, have been paying the GAA for the culture for years, and the GAA, a bit like Earn and Paper Boi, have let them. The bank, state-owned for over a decade, reversed its decision to turn 70 branches into “cashless facilities” after a backlash that – arguably for once – had cabinet ministers, community activists and rural GAA clubs on the same page. 

Had they moved ahead with the plan, it would’ve severely restricted access to cash for many marginalized communities and groups (both geographically and societally) to cash money, something you’d figure is a basic right for any paying customer of a financial institution. 

If the bank’s goal was to unite communities, it ironically achieved it, almost unforgivably, with the worst read of a room imaginable. The swiftness with which AIB reversed its decision only proved how unnecessary the move really was.

Yet, the GAA continues to court and receive sponsorship from a bank that just last month was hit with a record €96.7 million Central Bank fine for their roles in the State’s tracker mortgage scandal, which resulted in thousands of the group’s customers being overcharged and the loss of 137 properties by borrowers who ran into financial trouble. 

This scandal was long known to the GAA, yet its commercial relationship with the bank has continued unchecked, a sad indication that maybe the only outcome the organisation is interested in is income. It should be noted that the bank recorded a profit after tax last year of €645m.

AIB have been very clever in how they market their involvement with the GAA. Their sponsorship of the club championship, as well as the almost ubiquitous “#TheToughest” – a campaign which produced innovative tv access and opportunities to players such as Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea and Donegal’s Michael Murphy – achieved the Holy Grail of marketing – subconsciously linking the sponsored and the sponsor. 

The entire premise of the #TheToughest campaign was community and sacrifice. How galling that must have been to those families who lost their homes thanks to the tracker scandal. 

If the GAA is not willing to consider the founding principles of the organisation when considering commercial decisions, it should, at the very least, consider the lives of its ordinary members, for whom a hashtag with a manicured bow on it is scant consolation for the impact of corporate greed on their daily lives. The relationship should end.

What if LIV offered you a lifechanger?

Rory McIlroy is well acquainted with the pressure of choices. A lifetime of expectation over shot selection, shaft whip, caddies, driver loft; each one a small but significant ingredient in the recipe for success as a golfer in pursuit of greatness.

Last weekend’s assault on The Open Championship was the latest in a seemingly endless quest to better what he has already done. A major drought of eight years was probably only the second largest burden on McIlroy’s shoulders as he played a frustrating last nine holes. 

His accidental role as protector of all things good and great on the PGA tour in the face of LIV Golf’s challenge for the soul of the game has been one he’s worn with incredible poise these last few weeks. 

Winning at St Andrews would’ve been a fairytale end to a summer that has undeniably changed the game forever. That he lost in the end to Cameron Smith, a gung-ho Australian, who, it is speculated, is due to sign a mega-deal with the Saudi backed tour any day now, seems a somehow sadly apt conclusion for a story that seems destined to be decided by the power of money, not the integrity of play. 

McIlroy, with his many millions earned, is in a good position to be the face and heart of the righteous in this debate, and history will be justifiably kind to him, but consider someone like fellow Northern Irishman Jonathan Caldwell, ranked 554th in the world, a pro for 14 years. 

If his phone rang tomorrow with an offer to change his life…what would you tell him to do? What would any of us do? It would certainly be an easier defection to understand than Smith’s, whose shed will never be empty of turf.

A most welcome test of stamina

As the riders rode up the Champs-Élysées on Sunday afternoon, bringing the curtain down on arguably the craziest instalment in Le Tour’s storied history, another chapter in the sport will begin almost simultaneously.

As one door closes in Paris, another opened Sunday when the first stage of the Tour de France Femmes rolled away from the Eiffel Tower for an 80km circuit race on the same Champs-Élysées. 

The women’s tour, active again after a 33 year hiatus, will last for a week, and traverse France culminating in a brutal weekend on the legendary climbs of the Grand Ballon, the Ballon d’Alsace and Le Markstein. Hopefully it gets the exposure it deserves.

Let youth have it’s fling

Call me old fashioned, but Croke Park yesterday was not the same. The absence of an All Ireland minor final to enjoy before the main course was a sad caveat to an otherwise memorable day.

Depriving those youngsters and their families – not to mention the tens of thousands more for whom the minor match always proved the purest of sporting appetisers – is something that needs rethinking. 

All-Ireland final days are incredibly special occasions, and maybe we needed to be deprived of something to fully appreciate their significance. Bring them back. Let youth have it’s fling. We will all be better for it.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

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