David Ortiz snaps the now-famous selfie with President Obama. / Win McNamee, Getty Images
David Ortiz says he wasn't selfie-promoting with President Obama.
"I didn't know that he was going to let me take a picture with him," Ortiz told reporters, as social media lit up with comments about the viral photo he took with Obama on Tuesday.
Turns out the slugger known as Big Papi has an endorsement deal with Samsung, which makes the phone he used for the selfie (and which promoted the photo on Twitter).
"You don't get an opportunity to get a photo with the president every day," Ortiz said as his Boston Red Sox prepared to play the Orioles in Baltimore. "It's a once-in-a-life chance. ... I appreciate it."
Ortiz took the picture during a ceremony honoring the Red Sox for winning last year's World Series. Ortiz said he signed a deal with Samsung "a couple of months ago," but the company had no role in his snaps at the White House.
"It wasn't anything promotional or anything like that," Ortiz said. "I mean, who knows that you're going to get a picture with the president, a selfie? You can't guarantee that."
Samsung was also involved in the star-studded selfie that host Ellen DeGeneres took during the Oscar telecast on March 2. In a statement about Ortiz, Samsung said that "similar to the selfie Ellen was able to capture during the Oscars, this was an opportunity for David to share the incredible moment with his fans."
The company also said it "worked with David and the team on how to share images with fans. We didn't know if or what he would be able to capture using his Note 3 device."
On social media, some commentators criticized Ortiz and Samsung for "tricking" Obama into participating in what looks like corporate marketing.
"This is genius and also enrages me," tweeted Marissa Breton.
White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed that the president did not know about the Samsung connection when he posed with Ortiz. Officials did not comment on the matter further.
This appears to be a first-of-its-kind event in White House annals, though it should be noted: Obama is the first sitting president to have to contend with massive social media.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, who has written frequently about political image-making, said that over the years many people have tried to associate various products with the presidency. Now they get to try and post selfies on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
In this case, Jamieson questioned the marketing value of the picture itself, which shows only Obama, Ortiz, assorted other ballplayers and a Red Sox jersey with the president's name on the back.
"How do you know it's not somebody else's product?" she said. "What it seems to be selling is the shirt."
There does not appear to a legal issue here. After all, Samsung is not saying that Obama uses their phones - only that David Ortiz does.
In 2009, attorneys asked the Weatherproof Garment Co. to take down a billboard featuring a picture of Obama on the Great Wall of China wearing one of its jackets. Attorneys said the ad improperly suggested that the president was endorsing the product.
Kevin Greenberg, a business and intellectual property attorney in Philadelphia, said Samsung has been transparent about the Ortiz photo, and "they are not implying sponsorship by the president."
Obama consented to the picture, and probably knew that the image of him and Ortiz would wind up on social media, Greenberg said. Beyond the legalities, Greenberg said, Obama "looks like he's enjoying himself, and he certainly knows how selfies get used these days."
At the ballpark in Baltimore, Ortiz said he and the Red Sox are thankful to the president for having them over to the White House. "It's a moment we will never forget," he said. "It kind of puts you in a good mood to try to win another World Series and go back next year."
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Read the original story: Ortiz denies 'selfie' deception in Obama photo