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Do You Collect Autographs of Assholes?

When Chris Brown stepped on stage during Sunday night’s Grammy Awards it was no surprise that hundreds of women screamed. I was disappointed, however, that their calls weren’t for his head but rather to celebrate him. A hero’s welcome for a man who bloodied and bruised his girlfriend. If you ran into Chris Brown on the street, would you ask him for an autograph?

Kobe Bryant autographed mini basketball

Would you think twice about graphing Kobe Bryant based on his off-court behavior?

How many of you would ask Kobe Bryant? How about Ben Roethlisberger? Mike Tyson? Mel Gibson? Charlie Sheen? Michael Vick? Would you ask these assholes for their autograph?

In this context, I’m defining an asshole as someone with a moral fabric that resembles mesh (they likely deserve a more severe descriptor) and I’m basing this on their own documented actions—many of which involve the abuse of women or, in Vick’s case, animals. Needless to say, we all have our demons and none of us are saints. And I have little interest in researching the personal lives of those I graph. But what I’m talking about here are front page, ESPN Outside the Lines assholes. Do you ever stop to think about who you’re putting on a pedestal and into your collection? I didn’t give it much though until recently.

I realized that I was a true fan of only a few of the people I was graphing. For the most part, the size of their celebrity was what drew me to someone regardless of whether I actually respected or admired them (how else could you explain this?). I graphed Kobe without thinking twice. Hell, I was thrilled at my good fortune. At the time.

Can we separate a celebrity’s accomplishments on the court (field, screen, etc.) from their behavior off it? As fans we generally do, but should our memories be so short? Is the quality of your collection impacted by the quality of character of those in it?

I’m asking a lot of questions because I don’t have the answers.

Do you graph assholes?

About the author: is the founder of Autograph University. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and two sons. Connect with him on Twitter at @mattraymond.

13 comments… add one

  • Jason Adams February 14, 2012, 10:20 am


    I’m fairly selective on what I collect.

    No interest in Kobe, Bonds, John C Riley, or any of those guys.

  • Justin February 14, 2012, 10:36 am

    If I met one of them, say Kobe, in the street, by accident or what not, then I would probably ask for their autograph. I would then promptly sell it on Ebay or someplace else and make a profit off the scumbag.

    I wouldn’t intentionally seek out any of those types with the intention of getting their autograph. What’s the point?

  • Greg February 14, 2012, 11:04 am

    I think the short answer for MOST autograph collectors is yes…if one of these “assholes” were in front of you, you’d at least ask them to sign. I faced this dilemma a few years ago graphing the World Baseball Classic. It turned out that the Utah Jazz were staying at the same hotel as the WBC teams, and this was when Carlos Boozer was a member of the team. Now, before the whole “decision” debacle, Boozer was by far the most hated basketball played in Cleveland, and being a die-hard Cleveland fan, I didn’t know what to do. Should I get him on the team item I was doing? Should I take one of my blank baseballs and thow it at him for his Benedict Arnold ways? Long story short, I got his auto, and the experience did in fact help with the healing process, because Boozer (and the entire Jazz team as it turned out) is pretty good to the collecting community. So, I dont necessarily think people will wait for 6 hours outside a hotel for Chris Brown, but I think, if he were to pop up in front of most collectors, they’d at least ask.

  • Steve Mason February 14, 2012, 11:14 am

    I have obtained autographs of many assholes.

    Here is a list of some that 1rst come to mind

    Kobe Bryant
    Michael Vick
    Mel Gibson
    Javaris Crittenton
    Allen Iverson
    Deshawn Stevenson
    Ruben Patterson
    Brett Myers
    Ramon Castro

  • Mike February 14, 2012, 11:18 am

    Definitely selective in graphing. There are more than a handful of athletes I wouldn’t want to sign any for me. I am a pretty forgiving person but to me there are just certain individuals I’d rather not encourage or feed their egos by asking them to sign something for me. Call me hardheaded, but rapists, racists, perpetual criminals and the like, even if stars, don’t appeal to me enough to have them added to my collection. To me, I would rather get the auto of someone I’d be happy to say I’m a fan of than some jerk I’d cheer against any other time.

    I suppose my answer might be different if I ever sold pieces of my collection but for someone who collects items for the “Man Cave”, I would rather not have clowns like that in mycollection. Just me.

  • Terri July 4, 2012, 7:31 pm

    I am a very forgiving person usually. I got Roethlisberger’s autograph on Dec 30, 2006, WAY BEFORE all the garbage concerning him happened. I have others on the same Steeler DVD that I had signed that some people would consider “assholes,” such as James Harrison, and Joey Porter (who was on the team at that point) also. That being said, I have let that go at this point, because I have different opinions about how the whole thing was handled. I definitely would not go for an autograph from a jerk like Mel Gibson, or Michael Vick. If I had a chance to meet Kobe, I might. The reason is that people give Kobe a pass, but won’t let Ben off the hook. Even VICK gets a pass from some people.

  • Matt Raymond July 4, 2012, 8:30 pm

    Thanks for sharing your perspective Terri. It sounds like if society gives the player a second chance you may too. If I’m interpreting that wrong, wondering what your criteria is. I appreciate the input.

  • Ron Martin April 23, 2013, 8:48 pm

    A very interesting topic and one in which there are no clear answers. Let’s take a step back and look at some of the great athletes in the modern era. My childhood idol Peter Edward Rose comes to mind. Everyone knows his history and there is no need to revisit his well documented past but he was found guilty of income tax evasion. He was sentenced to Federal prison for his transgressions. His womanizing is legendary. I have multiple autographs of him in my collection and I am quite proud of them. We know that Denny McLain is not a very nice person. He has had two stints in Federal prison for some very heinous crimes. He basically robbed some hard working people of their pensions as he took three million dollars from the pension plan. He also was allegedly paid $160,000 to smuggle a fugitive out of the country. However he is a unique personality and he has tremendous historical value because he was the last man to win 30 games. Unless the game changes dramatically he may be the last pitcher to win 30 games. I mention both of these former players because they actually wrote a book together in 1969 called “How to Play Better Baseball”. In looking back now, what a coincidence. Going back further, Tyrus Raymond Cobb was one of the most hated players in the history of sports. By all accounts, he had some racial issues and he once boasted of killing a man that has never been confirmed. If you could afford to purchase a Cobb autograph, that would be an excellent addition to your collection. I guess I am trying to say that some of the great athletes in our history have had ethical and moral issues but that would not cause me to exclude them from my collection.

  • Matt Raymond April 24, 2013, 1:43 pm

    Hi Ron, thank you so much for the comment. A very thoughtful and interesting response, I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for adding your thoughts to the discussion.


  • john June 26, 2013, 11:38 am

    I have autographs from plenty of Assholes. Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, just to name a couple. 30% of the celebs I meet are A-holes.

  • Tom June 26, 2013, 12:06 pm

    OJ Simpson was in town over a decade ago so we spent a little time waiting for him to arrive at the venue (he was the DJ of a hip hop group). He signed a baseball (we collect signed baseballs) and an index card for my two sons. He was kind and treated my boys like gold…

  • PurdueAlumni05 June 26, 2013, 11:16 pm

    This should be no surprise but Keyshawn Johnson is the biggest asshole that I have ever met.

  • Bob February 20, 2016, 10:20 pm

    I’d get the item signed, then I would sell it ASAP and make some cash to fund other collecting of non-scumbags

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