CAMPBELL: RG3 has chance to head off potential image problem

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

We know Robert Griffin III to be a gracious young man, a budding megastar appreciative of the physical gifts that enable him to impact others.


SEE ALSO: RG3 defends against criticism after publicizing fans’ wedding registry purchases


What he wrote Sunday on Twitter to thank fans for their unsolicited purchases from his wedding registry was a nice gesture. We like our heroes humble, and D.C. has no greater icon these days than RG3. To know he cherishes the jerky maker and the corn peeler and the napkins is reassuring.

But the picture Griffin posted with the thank-you message was a bad look. He posed lying on a pile of empty boxes, shrugging and smirking—a portrayal of a multimillionaire indulging in materialism, disconnected with the proletariat that worship him.

His words were classy. The picture, however, was excessive, and it chafed some of his 910,000 Twitter followers. Their exchanges ended poorly when Griffin tweeted a message that included, “They always say more money, more problems,” and “#DealWithIt.”

This first clash between Griffin and his public is the strongest evidence of an issue that has been simmering this offseason, one that some in the Redskins organization acknowledge: the seeds of an RG3 perception problem have sprouted.

It isn’t a crisis yet by any stretch. Griffin’s record-breaking jersey sales quantify his marketability. And considering that fans are buying him welcome mats despite a football contract that guarantees him more than $21 million, his popularity obviously is quite strong.

But the humility for which many adore Griffin has not pervaded this offseason, particularly on Twitter. And because the team and his handlers have extensively limited his media availability, the interpersonal interactions that endeared him to reporters last season have been replaced by distant snapshots on the micro-blogging site.

Griffin’s luster dims when he retweets others’ compliments, as he repeatedly has done. On May 4, he retweeted a person who tweeted to him, “You are an awesome human!” Two weeks earlier, he retweeted a man who wrote that his son can’t sleep without his Redskins-clad teddy bear, Robert Grizzly III. A simple thank you would have been the humble response.

This doesn’t mean Griffin is a bad person or can’t play quarterback. He’s barely 23 and adjusting to fortune and exploding fame while under the public’s high-powered microscope. He’s going to make mistakes, as he did Sunday, and we must meet those with some level of understanding.

Such scrutiny, however, goes beyond the “tyranny of political correctness,” which he decried in a cryptic tweet last month. The stakes are real.

Griffin might not care what others think. He’ll enjoy support as long as he trains hard, plays well and smiles for the camera. But how the public perceives Griffin has and will have financial consequences for him and the Redskins. More importantly, coaches’ and teammates’ perception of the franchise quarterback will impact his ability to lead them.

There’s no strong indication the latter has soured, which is why it’s important for Griffin, the Redskins and his personal team to act now to try to keep his rookie-year honeymoon going.

Limiting his exposure on Twitter is the starting point. The site can be extremely toxic when operated without the utmost awareness of how tweets might be interpreted. Griffin’s photo is the perfect example. Feedback is immediate and sometimes harsh, and whatever is published belongs to the web for eternity.

Andrew Luck isn’t on Twitter. Neither is Peyton Manning, who probably is a better comparison to Griffin because they endorse so many products and have more to gain from increased visibility.

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