A Legacy of Refusing to Compromise

Legacy Matters!

Jimmy is a family man and churchgoer.  He loves the outdoors. He’s a marketing guru, a successful television star, and a tireless promoter.  He’s a legendary member of a professional sports Hall of Fame. And yet, he forfeited the opportunity to qualify for his sports’ most prestigious annual event, plus a large potential cash payout.

Why? Did he cheat? Did he badmouth the sport? Did he embarrass his corporate sponsors or insult his fans?


He simply chose to turn down a lucrative - and mandatory - endorsement deal. You see, the endorsement featured an alcohol company. This not only presented a personal conflict for Jimmy, it also presented a major hiccup for event qualification. An ultimatum was handed down by the professional society that governs his sport: endorse or forfeit. Jimmy forfeited. It went against his principles. Period.

Most people would have accepted the endorsement, participated in the tournament, and moved on. But Jimmy is not most people. He knows alcohol consumption is a prevalent and socially acceptable pastime in America. He also knows his own personal convictions. As a man of conviction and a Christian, Jimmy could not find it in himself to advertise alcohol.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports that alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States. Further, alcoholism is the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the nation. While these facts are sobering, Jimmy’s reason for refusing the endorsement was simpler: It misrepresented him and all he stood for. Jimmy simply was not a drinker and did not want to encourage others to do so.

Sports and recreation is also part of the fabric of America. Fishing, in particular, is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in the country. Fishing provides quality time with family and friends, the chance to enjoy nature, and an escape from the demands of everyday life. Fishing can be a way to compete or a way to relax. Now this, Jimmy, the outdoorsman, could embrace.

It happens that fishing is also a lucrative industry. The average annual expenditure per consumer on fishing equipment has grown to more than $30 million, with more than 28 million paid license holders in the country, resulting a gross licensing cost upward of $686 million a year. Fishing is a big - and growing - part of the American lifestyle. Some even pursue fishing as a career.

Jimmy - family man, outdoorsman, principled competitor - was one of the biggest players in the fishing industry, plus a standout on the professional circuit. Jimmy Houston is a pro angler and TV host. He has been on ESPN, the Outdoor Life Network, and NBC Sports for nearly 30 years. He has qualified for 15 BASS Master Classics - the granddaddy of fishing tournaments - and is an inductee into the Fishing Hall of Fame, Hall of Legendary Anglers, and the Pro Bass Angler Association Hall of Fame. In 1990, he was inducted into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. With fellow fishermen Roland Martin and Bill Dance, he formed the company Th3 Legends to sell fishing products to millions of enthusiasts. He is a legend in the fishing business.

Several years ago, Jimmy was faced with a critical and costly business proposition. His professional fishing league required all anglers to advertise for their corporate sponsor. The alcohol company would’ve required him to wear a beer company patch and add a beer company decal to his boat at professional Bass Angler Sportsman Society (BASS) events. Jimmy refused to do so. Consequently, he had to forfeit points needed to qualify for the prestigious BASS Master's Classic tournament, and a potential Angler of the Year prize worth $100,000.

Of 182 BASS anglers, Houston was the only one to refuse the beer company logos.

"I thought, 'Well, I'll fish and not get any points.' I knew what I was supposed to do.’” For Jimmy Houston, the path was clear: he could not compromise his personal standards for the sake of his profession. Ironically, BASS participants are prohibited from consuming alcohol on days preceding and during BASS events, Houston said.

Twice honored as Angler of the Year, a BASS competitor since 1968, and the most veteran among active pros at the time, Houston told the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger news journal that BASS is a good organization, but is trying to increase visibility and revenue by aligning with a sponsor inappropriate with its family-friendly history. He claimed he could not comply for "ethical, moral, and scriptural reasons." So he did not.

Jimmy Houston knows when to catch, and when to release.

Jimmy has always had a passion for the outdoors, and grew up in church. He is a Christian. He has written five books about his career, sprinkled throughout with faith. One of his books, Catch of The Day, is a daily devotional that applies wisdom from the art of fishing to spiritual growth. That same wisdom served him well when he was faced with a moral dilemma.

At the end of the day, Jimmy Houston represented himself and his faith well by refusing to compromise. Jimmy’s legacy of unshakable fortitude stands toe-to-toe with his professional legacy.

What have you been asked, or forced, to do at work? What is acceptable in your industry; at your organization? Does it align with your core beliefs? What are your non-negotiables?  Are you prepared to forfeit opportunity in your industry, at your company, because of those principles?  Tough questions for sure.

Standing on principle is a faith exercise, Houston noted. "It feels like a kick in the head at times. I've been through this 1,000 times in business.” Jimmy Houston, however, has weathered the storm and gleaned wisdom in its wake. “But thankfully,” he acknowledges, “I'm not running things - God is."

And this is why, Legacy Matters...


Featurette No.16 (c) www.legacyletters.xyz

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