You know that Maria Sharapova is a tennis athlete.
You also know that Maria Sharapova is an extremely successful businesswoman.
Did you know that Maria Sharapova was also a student at Harvard?
Maria Sharapova has decided to do a short stint at Harvard while awaiting the results of her appeal of a recently enacted 2-year athletic performance ban based on her positive result for taking a banned substance.
The move may be part of a damage control strategy for the talented athlete and lucrative businesswoman. She may be trying to repair her image, mollify corporate endorsers and remain relatable to her considerable fanbase.
The 29-year-old tennis star is currently enrolled at Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Sharapova is enrolled in 2 classes for a brief two-week program according to her agent Max Eisenbud.
Sharapova is a part of a 55-student class. Her class is reportedly working in small groups and working on public presentation of business strategies and reviewing case studies for business marketing.
Sharapova’s class are working on lessons centered on analyzing theoretical business challenges for Sharapova’s own real life candy-themed business, Sugarpova.
New Harvard student Maria Sharapova herself claims that the students picked her company for class study without any input or suggestion from Sharapova herself.
Sugarpova was started with about half a million dollars’ worth of startup funds and on the strength of Sharapova’s business acumen and popularity. Sugarpova is now worth millions.
Protecting Sharapova’s considerable assets and legacy may be the ultimate goal of her recent foray into academia.
Sharapova earns well over $20 million a year and was the highest paid female athlete on Earth for 11 years straight until Serene Williams took that honor this year.
She is estimated to have made well over a third of a billion dollars, in gross worth, over the entirety of her young career. Her actual net worth may be in the neighborhood of about $125 million.
Sharapova is 29, healthy and capable of winning more titles and earning more endorsement profits.
However, since her recent 2-year performance ban handed down by the International Tennis Federation, Sharapova has been banned from playing tennis until January 2018.
Sharapova was found guilty by an ITF panel of unintentionally taking Maldonium, a banned substance in the world of professional tennis.
Sharapova stands to lose tens of millions of dollars in endorsements and competitive paydays while under the ban.
If she was convicted for intentional use of a banned substance, then she would have had a 4-year ban to deal with.
Sharapova’s halfhearted and cynical 2-week excursion to Harvard comes off too much as a strategized, P. R. rehabilitation ploy. The non-intentional use of her ban may help assuage anxious endorsers, sponsors and fans. The optics of seeing Sharapova study and supposedly plan for her future looks a lot better to people than Sharapova having to answer for and deal with a doping ban.
And killing some time at Harvard, while awaiting the ruling of Sharapova’s recent appeal of the 2-year ban, provides some sorely needed positive news and optics to offset the negativity of the 2-year ban ruling.
Sharapova is awaiting the July 18, 2016, ITF ruling concerning her appeal of the 2-year ban. If the ban is reversed Sharapova could theoretically be eligible to play in the 2016 Rio Olympics if she wished.
Ultimately, Sharapova’s journey to Harvard could be a cynical, time killing, P. R. rehabilitation ploy designed to help appeal a shortening of her ban.
Or she is just killing time while deciding what to do while she is banned from play.
Time will tell.
But we will definitely have a better idea of her plans and future professional strategies after July 18, 2016.
A. A. Francis