This is weird: Rafael Nadal has joined PokerStars, the world's largest online poker site.
The seven-time French Open champion will be an ambassador for the gaming site, playing in online tournaments, being featured in advertisements and appearing at charity events.
It's a natural move for PokerStars. Online poker was legalized in Spain on June 1. Getting one of the nation's biggest sports stars to endorse the product is a nice marketing coup.
Does it makes as much sense for Nadal? We don't begrudge a man the opportunity to make money (terms weren't announced, but it's safe to assume his services aren't coming cheap). But Nadal made $25 million in endorsements last year on top of $8 million in earnings. Forbes says he's the 16th-highest paid athlete in the world. Is some more money worth possibly tarnishing his image with the seediness of online poker? There are plenty of possible cash grabs out there. Where's the line drawn? Appearing on a riverboat in Biloxi? Working as a casino greeter with Peter Lawford's grandson? Nadal also endorses Bacardi, but his promotions have been limited to a campaign on responsible drinking. This is more hands-on.
More importantly, what does the ATP think about this? It's not a huge leap between poker and sports gambling. They're not the same thing, of course. But if that perception exists amongst fans, they might as well be.
I'm not trying to be the moral police. Online poker isn't wrong, PokerStars isn't evil and Rafael Nadal isn't a degenerate sellout for endorsing gambling. They just make for some strange bedfellows is all.