Friday, April 27, 2001

Reebok pulls car-stunt ad

Independence video eerily similar

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Reebok has pulled its TV commercial showing NBA star Steve Francis leaping over an oncoming car after an Independence teen was injured Monday attempting a similar maneuver.

[photo] The Reebok ad used computerized special effects to show NBA star Steve Francis leaping over a moving car.
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[photo] The video made by Independence teens shows the car hitting one of them.
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        “We don't want to be seen as encouraging any kind of this behavior,” said John Wardley, vice president of brand communications at Reebok in Canton, Mass.

        The 16-year-old boy broke his leg and ankle trying to jump over a 1983 Honda driven by a friend, while two other pals videotaped the action. (Previous story, details)

        Police, who said the teens were inspired by MTV's Jackass show, charged the 17-year-old driver and his 16-year-old videographer passenger with wanton endangerment, a felony. The injured boy remained in St. Elizabeth Medical Center South in Edgewood Thursday.

        Reebok pulled the 30-second “Defy Convention” commercial from Thursday's Survivor: The Australian Outback and replaced it with a Reebok shoe advertisement featuring tennis champion Venus Williams.

        Independence lawyer Eric Deters, who is representing the injured teen, said Thursday his client was not trying to emulate the advertisement or the MTV show.

        The “Defy Convention” campaign has aired exclusively on Survivor, TV's No. 1 show, since the premiere on Super Bowl Sunday, Mr. Wardley says.

        Mr. Wardley said he had read news stories about the Kentucky teens trying to re-create Jackass stunts. “Before you called, nobody had made any link between that incident and our commercial,” he told the Enquirer.

        Mr. Francis, the Houston Rockets' co-rookie of the year last season, did not actually hurdle a moving car. The stunt was created by computerized special effects.

        “It was all intended as something obviously fanciful,” Mr. Wardley said. “I mean, he cleared the car by several feet. I don't think there's a person alive who can do that stunt. It should be clear to everyone that it's fanciful.”

        The commercial ends with another unbelievable scene created by computers: Indianapolis Colts running back Edgerrin James knocks over a 25-foot tree with his shoulder pads.

        The “Defy Convention” spot also includes NBA star Allen Iverson and soccer player Julie Foudy. It will return to the airwaves after the car-jumping shot — about 5 seconds long — is replaced by another scene, he said.

        “I just felt it was the responsible thing to do, to take that stunt out,” Mr. Wardley said.

        Reebok pulled the commercial while Eric Deters, attorney for the injured boy, maintained the teens were not copying Jackass or Reebok.

        But Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson said the teens told Independence police they were taping stunts like the ones on Jackass, MTV's highest-rated show. He says the teens taped themselves doing other stunts on skateboards and bicycles in recent months.

        “They said they were doing it in order to get on the Jackass program,” Mr. Edmondson said.

        Jackass does not accept viewers' submissions. The MTV show, rated TV-MA (unsuitable for viewers under 17), also warns viewers not to copy stunts performed on MTV “by professionals and/or total idiots.”

Judge plans gag order on teens, attorneys

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