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Well, where do I start. Here's a summary... David Clinger, renowned cyclist with many impressive attributes to his career, has recently been the recipient of a facial tattoo and subsequently a loss of employment.
Now, as someone who bares modern facial tattooing myself, I can see where a problem may persist. As the article goes on to explain that David Clinger thought about getting the tattoo for years prior to getting it done, he however did not thoroughly consult his family or present employers, like Webcor, the team with the sponsors he rides for. Team sponsors informed Mr. Clinger that he would be out of work if his tattoo was still there by the date of the next race event. For whatever reasons, the powers that be decided that Mr. Clinger's personal feelings of art, life and expression were not professional, or acceptable, and after being given the ultimatum of either having the complete tattoo removed by lengthy laser treatments, or at least the lower half of his face (but only if the visor covered the top half), Mr. Clinger agreed to undergo the procedure in order to keep his employment with team Webcor, unfortunately he would later find out that he couldn't possibly have the tattoo removed in time for the race.
Where to begin...
Well, first of all, I think David should have done some serious thinking before just going out and having his face tattooed. After all, he wasn't, nor had he ever met the Maori. He didn't even get it done in New Zealand. For someone who admired the Maori so much, and had read so much on their culture, he obviously didn't plan this out thoroughly. Even his wife didn't see it fitting, but she vowed to stay by him.
Second, he obviously didn't consider the fact that the person who signs your checks has a say in your appearance on the job. Whether it be permanent or not. As well as the consequences of friends and families reactions to this new adornment, and future employment considerations. Did he consider the amount of pain, scarring and money involved in removal? There were a ton of questions that ran through my head, years before I had a very good friend and amazing artist, Sean Knudsen, design and tattoo my facial adornment. I was also established as an exceptional piercer, I had other trades under my belt, and lots of friends and connections. I also decided 9 years ago that I was this person. I knew that this was what I was going to represent and stand for for the rest of my natural life. Did David Clinger feel this way? If he did, he was wrong in accepting to remove the tattoo. You would have to cut mine off my cold dead body. Finally, who the hell do these team sponsors and owners think they are, telling him that his tattoo had to be removed because it didn't promote a positive image for the sport of cycling. I think the image of mankind is being tarnished by the ignorance of old manners and ideals. Old men with too much money and too little brains making judgment on modern day man's right freedom of expression. The people that told David Clinger he had to change himself into someone they would be happy with, should have considered that maybe Mr. Clinger could have performed better with the tattoo. (or they could have at least considered using 3 stage theatrical make up.)
I firmly believe that his recent adornment may have been an expensive media stunt, or an unfortunate waste of tattoo ink and hours of skillful art. Either way, I'm sure we'll see more leniency towards tattoo art and modifications as time goes on. But poor David, I hope he keeps the tattoo, someone else picks him up, and he kicks some ass this season's tours! After all, Iron Mike Tyson has half his face tattooed, and who is going to tell him he can't keep doing what he likes to do professionally. hmmff! He'd knock you out. David Clinger should have gotten a good agent before paying for a lawyer.
The moral of the story is don't tattoo your face without discussing it with your immediate family and employers first, then discuss it again, and again, then again, and again until it is truly a modification you all believe you care to live with, for life!
Do you know what the stat is on the unemployment rate including individuals with facial tattooing? I bet it's around 99.9%.
In the beginning, David Clinger's story was exciting and groundbreaking -- a popular athlete who is successful and respected (and not considered insane) follows his heart and gets the full facial tattoo he has long desired. But the news quickly turned ugly and disappointing, as Clinger's team and sponsors balked and the cyclist immediately acquiesced and promised to get part of the tattoo removed. I'm sure that my reaction to this was mirrored by many modification enthusiasts -- how could David Clinger give up so quickly on his dream?
When interviewed, David Clinger expressed his passionate desire for the tattoo as something he had "wanted" and "needed" for years before going through with it. He knew that he would meet negative reactions, and even his fiancee was opposed... but he did it anyway. He said that he was prepared to walk into a meeting with his team and "have them fire me if they wanted to." By these accounts, I would have expected Clinger to hold his dreams and convictions above his employment. I would have expected him to fight the team's reaction in court, to prove that visible tattoos have no impact on his ability as a professional cyclist or the success of his team. But instead, it took very little pressure from Webcor, sponsors, and teammates for Clinger to agree to remove at least part of his prized facial tattoo. What happened? Clinger says of the situation, "I'm sure I could fight it with a lawyer if I really wanted to." But he clearly doesn't want to fight it, which causes me to question his real desires for the tattoo. He says he was ready to be fired over it... then doesn't even put up a fight. He has said that it was "somewhat of a publicity stunt as well," so perhaps that's it -- he was eager for the attention it would bring, but not the consequences. Really, I don't understand at all.
But what's even more disheartening is the response from Clinger's team that lead to his decision. Webcor defends its decision on the basis of "professionalism," saying that there are "certain limitations on what you can do." I agree that there should be "professionalism" in pro cycling -- good sportsmanship, fair play, etc. But appearance has no impact on his ability to be a star cyclist. Clinger's tattoo should not affect his athletic ability or his attitude. The Webcor team consultant, Frank Scioscia, discusses the tattoo in terms of "harm" to the team. It makes Clinger's tattoo sound like a threat, instead of an action of self-expression.
Webcor's biggest worry is in sponsorship, as the team's sponsors may not agree with the image that the tattoo conveys. This isn't especially unusual or surprising, but it is disappointing. Clinger's tattoo has already brought a huge deal of publicity to the team. The initial publicity wasn't negative, just reflecting the novelty of the situation -- it's the team's actions that brought a negative turn. Also, as the tattoo should have no impact on Clinger's cycling ability, the sponsors would still be affiliated with a winning team. If anything, the disruption of removing Clinger from the team and three months of painful laser tattoo removal before his return are likely to have the biggest effect on the team's success. It seems like Webcor is sabotaging their own winning team -- and they'll undoubtedly blame Clinger for all of it, in the end.
It is especially interesting to read all of the responses to news articles about this situation -- public opinion is very clearly divided between outrage and agreement over Webcor's decisions. As an active member of online modification communities, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that many (or even most) people are not tattoo enthusiasts. At best, they're ambivalent... and at worst, they are repulsed by them. So I can understand Webcor's fear of losing sponsorship, even if I disagree with their actions. But I wish they could see that a visible tattoo has no impact on David Clinger's ability as a professional athlete. I can't imagine that this situation will repeat in the near future, but when or if it does come up again... hopefully it will be with a more open-minded company or an athlete who is more willing to fight for individualism and self-expression.
The fun thing about hindsight is that it's always 20/20. Though I have to say I'm neither surprised nor overly upset about what happened. In a perfect world Webcor wouldn't care about David Clinger's facial tattoo and would care only about his performance as an athlete. I don't feel like I'm bursting any bubbles here when I say this isn't a perfect world, and if you work for someone (yes pro athlete contracts count) it's your responsibility before undergoing something of this nature to make sure that everything is kosher with the folks that pay your bills.
When first reading the story, anyone who's even gotten as much as a nasty look at work for a nostril piercing stops and asks themselves, "Where is the disconnect? How did this happen? Here's a guy who's enjoying a career as a competitive cyclist with a bright future predicted and all of a sudden he's in the dog house over this facial tattoo." The cause and effect seems somewhat hard to miss here but I'll give David Clinger the benefit of the doubt. I wondered if this was a night of too much drinking resulting in one of life's finer moments, or if maybe not unlike so many people a somewhat rash decision was made and so I was left asking myself, "I wonder how much thought was put into this" Apparently a couple of years. So I'm to believe David Clinger thought about getting his entire face tattooed for two years, two years and it never dawns on him to talk to his boss or maybe write a letter to the team's sponsors? Sounds like some thorough thought.
For David Clinger's part in this situation, I say, "Too bad for ya!" End of story. Let this be a lesson kids, if you're going to tattoo your entire face, or for more practical sake, drastically and in some eyes radically change your physical appearance from one that's generally accepted to one that's somewhat controversial and you are essentially a public face for the company you work for, have a little chat with HR or your supervisor or jeez, even your boss and see what your company's policy on this matter is. Evaluate the situation. If the boss man says, "no dice" it's up to you to decide if these are the people you want to work for. Thankfully, David Clinger isn't being ridiculous about this and telling it as some sob story. I for one don't feel sorry for him, he made a bad decision and now he can either have half of the tattoo removed or find a new gig.
Webcor, well... I have to say I've never heard of these people until I read the article. And since they say there's no such thing as bad publicity, guess this works out well for them. But since I have no use for cost effective building design help, I guess I'll have to file their name into one of the billions I'll forget in a week's time. I guess if I ever do, I won't use them, more on principle than anything else. I may agree with their right to make whatever decision they see fit where the good of their company is concerned, even if that means suspending an employee/contractor/etc who couldn't forward them the decency to check in about such a major change, but for better or for worse I wouldn't give a company that cared about something like that my money. Still, I do understand their stand point, sponsors are hard to come by sometimes and companies can be very anal about what they will and won't be associated with, let's call a spade a spade - it's an anal retentive/narcissistic self image obsession type deal. I can't say I really blame them. Is it an unfortunate situation? Yes, but it's the way things work, had David Clinger an ounce of foresight he'd likely be in a much different situation right now.
So Webcor has a cycling team, and one of its members shows up one day with a tattoo. Now we're not talking about something offensive or even tacky. I mean he could have done a LOT worse. (I personally envisioned racing stripes or flames from behind his ears when I head about the story, "this guy got a facial tattoo and now the company he races for is making him have it removed" I think I felt more compelled to read the story to see the tattoo in question than for the sake of the story itself) I've dealt with people on the verge of loosing minimum wage jobs for a simple piercing or slightly visible tattoo for years. I have to say this one doesn't really tug at my heart strings. I don't support Webcor's decision; I think that if David Clinger is a talented cyclist and is doing well his face shouldn't be their concern. But back to that real world I was talking about. As far as I know there was no dialogue between David Clinger and Webcor prior to the facial tattoo becoming a facial tattoo. Webcor reacted as far as I'm concerned pretty decently even if it was predictable and regrettably bigoted. But let's face facts, their team, their say at least for the duration of the contract. I'm sure there would be a team willing to take David Clinger on facial tattoo and all. And more over it's not like Webcor terminated his contract outright, or threw him into the bog of eternal stench... he was given options and that's a lot more than what most people are given in situations like these.
In general, it would be nice if companies didn't care about body modification or the personal practices etc of its employees assuming they didn't hinder job performance, or if we had some legislation protecting against discrimination or retribution from employers where visible tattoos/body piercing/etc. is concerned, but since the concern of any company mirrors the concern of the consumer, until the consumer John Q. Public isn't freaked out by some dude with a face covered in tattoos these are the responses we can expect. Should we fight for change? Yes! But for people in situations like David Clinger, where you directly represent a company very, very publicly, a little communication goes a long way. Get a facial tattoo, get whatever tattoo wherever you want, but make sure it jives with the aspects of your life that aren't so much an option (like employment) unless you are in a position where you can either create a means to earn income on your own or find a company who has a very progressive outlook on body modification and image. Think seriously about these three words "cause-and-effect" or perhaps these "spare-some-change?"
As an afterthought, I'd like to acknowledge that this must make me seem a little conformist. I prefer to think of myself as a realist. I choose not to work for or support companies that I know have stupid "zero tolerance" policies for body modification. If that means I pay more for a gallon of milk, fine. No 401k options? That's OK by me! These are small prices to pay in my eyes to maintain a level of personal appearance that I deem appropriate whether that means I wear J. Crew, leather and spikes or a combination of the two, I have that freedom. But freedom doesn't come without sacrifice. We all need to do what we can to help in the progression of acceptance of body modification within the general public but we also need to realize that that acceptance isn't an immediate thing; and while exposure breeds acceptance, there's consequences to choice - sometimes for better and sometimes for worse - its cause and effect.
The situation with David Clinger is absolutely disgusting to me. I am not a large fan of facial tattoos. Really, I only like a few. It takes a large amount of commitment to take that step, and to give an ultimatum to destroy that commitment is appalling. I have never thought of cycling to be a sport that is very mainstream. Before Lance Armstrong, most of us wouldn't have recognized a single cyclist. I think that most companies considering sponsorship would put more priority on ability than appearance. I work for a company that builds doors and windows (among other things) for high-scale homes and businesses. If I were in the area, and found out that my work was going to be used by Webcor, I would refuse to do the work for them. I would also encourage my employer to refuse to provide further service to Webcor. I can't justify supporting a company that would so willingly obliterate something that requires as much devotion as it takes to get a facial tattoo.
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