NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Full Throttle – It is ok to objectify women, just don’t have dirty pictures

Trophy girls have been around race tracks for nearly 100 years and, while the roles have changed over time, the fact still remains that they are trophy girls, not trophy guys. For thirty years, Ms. Winston was around at the end of races for the drivers to hug, kiss and pose with for pictures and generally speaking, they were very attractive women who usually fit the stereotype of a “trophy” girl. When NEXTEL/Sprint came into the sport they didn’t have a trophy girl program but in 2007 they introduced Ms. Sprint Cup and the reception has been quite positive over the last four years.

Unfortunately, that may change after one of the three Ms. Sprint Cups for 2011 was released after some less than mainstream pictures of her began circulating around the world wide web. Now the title sponsor for NASCAR will have to do some serious spin doctoring to explain how it is ok for them to put pretty women in form fitting driving suits and parade them around the track every weekend but it isn’t ok for one of those women to have some pictures that were taken well before they were ever involved with program show up on the Internet.

The word came out on the Ms. Sprint Cup Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/misssprintcup) last Wednesday that Paige Duke would no longer be a member of the team. In a very short period of time, every picture on the page that had Ms. Duke’s image included was removed. While no official statement appears to have been released, the word has come out on several different websites that some personal pictures that were taken by a former boyfriend when Ms. Duke was a student at Clemson have shown up in an email that is circulating on the Internet. The pictures apparently are a little more than just some topless shots and the folks at Sprint who make the decisions have released her from her responsibilities because of them.

There is no question that the image portrayed by a corporation–and the people it employs–can have an impact on its business and that image may even carry through to the bottom line. Companies spend years and millions of dollars trying to establish a specific image for themselves and some negative publicity or a bad news story can make all of that effort worthless overnight. Understanding that commitment, there is no question that a company should look long and hard at negative publicity that applies to one of their employees, especially one whose primary job is a spokesperson for the organization who is on a national stage nearly every week for some 40+ weeks a year. However, the image that the employee is being asked to portray is also worth taking into consideration when their job status is on the line over some images that are circulating of them around the world.

Miss Sprint Cup is just that, Miss–it is not Mister. It is all about spreading the Sprint message with a beautiful face and smile, not to mention a trim, attractive body. The women who fulfill the duties each week wear very form fitting race suits. They are not skin tight but they most certainly show off the feminine curves of the ladies’ bodies. They do not fit like Prince Fielder’s baseball uniform to say the least. The ladies are chosen through a very rigorous screening process that examines far more than looks but there is no doubt the individuals who have been selected to participate in this program over the years have been model caliber women.

The duties they perform require them to interact with fans every race weekend through a myriad of activities that keep them as busy as any of the drivers in the garage and have them making more direct contact with the public than almost any other person involved with the sport. Making sure the members of the team are pleasing to the eye is definitely one of the higher priorities in the selection process, at least based on the past members who have been part of the team over the five years of the program.

The fact that Sprint has chosen to release Ms. Duke from her role as a member of the team after some revealing pictures have surfaced, after they have used her as a spokesperson for nearly a year and a half, primarily taking advantage of the fact that she is a model and a very attractive woman, seems tremendously hypocritical. The pictures that have surfaced were taken when Duke was a student at Clemson, before she was part of the Sprint team. Had the pictures been taken since she became part of the team, or were taken while she was wearing her driving suit, then releasing her would be plausible because it would be potentially defaming Sprint.

The pictures they’re talking about were when she was dating a man and were sent to him explicitly, for private “use” only. They weren’t for a Playboy or Penthouse spread. They weren’t even for a Maxim or FHM. They were shared between two consenting adults and now he’s chosen to share them with the world. While creating the pictures was obviously a poor judgment for Duke they are hardly anything new or earth shattering in the 21st century.

We live in a 24/7 world where the mistakes we make can be known around the world in a matter of seconds. Indiscretions which used to be easily hidden or held between two adults can now be shared with millions of people with the click of a mouse. That ease of distribution is not only a bane but can also be a boon. Sprint is one of the biggest advocates of the instantaneous world of digital media and encourages the members of the Ms. Sprint Cup team to fully utilize all aspects of the social media world to promote their products. They also enjoy a tremendous amount of exposure in this 24/7 digital world because people are attracted to the pretty women wearing the Sprint fire suits on race weekends and at fan events during race weekends.

The folks at Sprint should be embarrassed by that they were more than happy to take advantage of Ms. Duke’s pretty face pimping out their phones and services until one blemish appeared, and then they cut her loose. Objectification is objectification, whether the person is naked or not.

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