The Politics of Presidential Appearances in Video Games

September 25, 2010 – In The News

President Obama’s appearance in the Madden and NBA 2K video games raises questions concerning the standard procedure of commercial work. Should persons involved give permission and be compensated to rule out the possibility of them suing the producer? A president is the one A-list celebrity commercial producers can use for free because a president has more important issues to deal with than suing a producer for appearing in a video game and is unlikely to publicly sue over an issue like this because of the unnecessary attention that would result.

Jeffrey Kravitz calls this a “legal loser and political loser,” stating, “If a president was in fact mad about it, and I was one of his advisors, my advice would be, ‘Mr. President, just smile and make a joke about it. Go out and say they made you look like you lost a few pounds, and laugh and move on.'” An appearance that implies an endorsement, however, may cause bigger issues. “If you were to change the facts of the endorsement and have [Obama] standing there with a Nike basketball and a lot of Nike symbols, somebody from Oregon [where Nike is headquartered] or the White House might make a phone call,” said Kravitz. In conclusion, Kravitz commented, “We elected him, so we do kind of own him. It’s an American tradition.”