Who the hell is Neymar? Has to be a character from Lion King II right?
That may be a real question coming from a Cleveland Browns fan who checked out ESPN’s ranking of the most famous 100 athletes in the world. This list uses several factors to determine just which athletes are internationally known, including social media stats along with salary and endorsements.
It’s easy for us Americans to forget just how popular soccer is outside the USA! USA! USA!
So popular that even I can’t deny that the international community has the right to proclaim their “futbol,” the “real football.”
This ESPN list not only highlights how other sports can overshadow the NFL, but it puts an exclamation point on the fact that individual NFLers are absolutely faceless.
The highest ranking NFL player on the top 100 famous list was Cam Newton. If not for his post-Super Bowl tantrum, I doubt he would have broken the number 40 mark.
NFL guys do account for 16 of the top 100 spots, but most fall below the top 50.
Four soccer players wound up in the top ten, with 17 overall on the list. Female soccer star Alex Morgan (55) was just three spots behind the most famous football player of the past decade, Tom Brady (52).
MMA athletes are certainly new to any list of worldwide fame. Yet according to this list, Ronda Rousey (23) and Conor McGregor’s (37) fame is above every single NFLer except Cam Newton.
Three years ago, only half the players in the NFL would have known who Rousey or McGregor were. Now these mixed martial artists will be remembered long after 90 percent of anyone playing in the NFL right now.
Kudos to these two bad-asses who figured out how to market themselves to a worldwide audience. In addition to classes on how to handle money and how to avoid legal troubles, NFL rookies could use a lesson from either fighter on how to grow their personal brand.
That’s where the long-term money lies.
Being able to defend a pass or blitz the quarterback is great. Doubling your money as an athlete through endorsements sure makes that bankroll more likely to last long after the game checks come to an end.
What about NBA players in comparison to NFLers?
These dunkers and sharpshooters had four more guys make the list than did the NFL. And no ESPN list would be complete without their boy, LeBron James (2), hanging around the top of it.
Even players well past their prime like Amar’e Stoudemire are still considered famous.
A washed up Deron Williams (87) is almost as famous as Gronk (72) and more well known than Big Ben (98). Outrageous!
Is there no marketing firm out there who can help these faceless NFL players?
The NFL Draft is a higher rated TV event than NBA playoff contests. So it’s not the game that’s the issue. It’s the inability of the players to escape the shadow of the League as a whole.
Until these NFLers figure out how to do that, they will remain mostly anonymous. Especially players who didn’t get lucky enough to become quarterbacks.
Only four non-passers made ESPN’s fame list:
– Odell Beckham Jr. (40) – If not for one insane catch that set the internet on fire, he likely doesn’t make the list at all. Dude’s great, but one play took him to world domination level. Hopefully, he won’t get lost in that Khloe Kardashian world like Lamar Odom.
– J.J. Watt (56) – He’s the best defensive player in the NFL, and he was beaten out by eight tennis stars, two cricket players, five golfers, and the only track star to make the list at all in Usain Bolt (15).
– Marshawn Lynch (61) – For an athlete who hates talking, I’d say he’s done very well for himself on an international level.
– Rob Gronkowski (72) – This man dates pornstars, mashes linebackers like gummy bears, hosts cruises on the open seas, and has more fun than any athlete I’ve ever witnessed. Yet he couldn’t crack the top half of ESPN’s list. If Gronk played soccer, he would be in the number one position.
The League doesn’t have anything to hang it’s collective head about.
It’s the individuals that make up the NFL who should think long and hard about what other athletes around the world are doing with the stage they are given.
Guys like Tiger Woods and LeBron James are something special. I don’t expect a linebacker to become a billion dollar athlete.
Though I would hope that linebacker could find a way to replicate what some of the other athletes listed have done. If a snowboarder and a guy who rides a skateboard can find fame on a worldwide basis, surely more NFLers can level up internationally.
It’s on each individual player to make that happen, though. The League for which they work has no interest in promoting individuals. It’s all about the Shield.
There’s a lot of blame to go around for the faceless nature of NFL grinders. The union, former players, and even the mega stars of today have failed to help their peers capitalize on the popularity of their game.
Sure, every player gets to wet their beak in the ocean of cash that is the NFL. But these faceless men are leaving so much on the table by failing to come out of the shadows as individuals.