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It’s DangeRuss, So DangeRuss

Posted in Advertising

Russell Wilson (whose twitter handle is @DangeRussWilson) recently courted controversy with some comments made in an August 26 Rolling Stone article:

Another venture is slightly less altruistic. Wilson is an investor in Reliant Recovery Water, a $3-per-bottle concoction with nanobubbles and electrolytes that purportedly helps people recover quickly from workouts and, according to Wilson, injury. He mentions a teammate whose knee healed miraculously, and then he shares his own testimonial.

“I banged my head during the Packers game in the playoffs, and the next day I was fine,” says Wilson. “It was the water.”

Rodgers offers a hasty interjection. “Well, we’re not saying we have real medical proof.”

But Wilson shakes his head, energized by the subject. He speaks with an evangelist’s zeal.

“I know it works.” His eyes brighten. “Soon you’re going to be able to order it straight from Amazon.”

After facing some scrutiny, Wilson largely doubled down on his comments through Twitter over the next several days, “clarifying” that he didn’t mean to suggest that his magic water cured his concussion, but instead merely prevented his concussion.  Enter Russell Wilson, snake oil salesman.  In the grand tradition of Ponce de Leon and Bobby Boucher, we finally have our dihydrogen monoxide pitchman for the new millennium!

“But wait!” you say.  “This isn’t just water!  It’s got nanobubbles and electrolytes!”  I’ve previously ranted on the nonsense of electrolyte advertising.  As for “nanobubbles,” while the concept potentially has very important applications, the only thing oral consumption of bubbles is likely to cause — “nano” or otherwise — is belching, bloating, and flatulence.

Wilson’s comments are more dangerous than other baloney advertising claims because they make explicit health claims.  And the Federal Trade Commission, among others, require strong scientific support for any such claims.  In addition to federal laws and regulations, unsupported health claims also likely run afoul of state deceptive advertising laws.  By continuing to make these comments, Wilson is exposing himself and his company to possible legal claims.

The comment by Wilson’s agent in the quote above indicates that the agent, who is presumably a lawyer, is at least aware of the risk.  However, it’s questionable whether his passing comment about the absence of medical evidence would immunize Wilson and his company from lawsuits based on “testimonials” or claims where the disclaimer was not included.  Additionally, even if Wilson can dodge lawsuits, he should be judged harshly for his comments in the Court of Public Opinion.  He’s either a fraud or a fool, and in either case, it’s not his place to be be spouting off about health effects of any beverages, let alone one in which he has a financial stake.