If you see a driver of a removalist van swerving on the road and being a dickhead you're more likely to look negatively on that brand. Thus may not use it. Which causes brand shrinkage and is hurtful to the company.
If you see a player getting loaded and driving you may not want your child to watch the games he plays in thus the NRL loses viewership, then a potential grass roots player. The NRL is the overall employer, if one of your staff is doing something that potentially hurts the brand you're going to do something about it.
We can't just not punish these guys when they make mistakes. They're in the public eye - like it or not, that's why they get paid more money. To negate the negative impact of your life no longer being completely private. However the media should do more to protect the image of the NRL as well, as an example the Pearce situation should never have made it to the news. That was in private and was not against the law, likewise with Todd Carney. That's why I believe there should be media accreditation handed out - if you don't protect the brand you don't get the insights.
Don't get me wrong, I fully agree about the media accreditation and associated accountability - it's something I've been spruiking since I joined Sportal.
As for your first couple of paragraphs I couldn't agree less.
The analogy doesn't align and if you actually think about it, rather than just taking the standard NRL line as gospel, you'd realise that the impact on the brand is negligible.
I do fully appreciate how protective businesses need to be of their brand but in this instance, it is blatantly obvious that sponsorship companies are aligned to the football team and an individual act of stupidity is something that the team/sponsors are unable to ever completely control and should result in the individual being punished by the law (as he will be) and not the team/sponsors.
Nobody is going to not purchase a Huawei phone as a result of this and if anything, some people that wouldn't even know the company will now be aware they exist.
As for the NRL they can shove their brand protection up their clacker.
They do more damage to the reputation of the game and their brand than the players do and unfortunately individual mistakes like this will always occur and should be punished by those that are in the best position to punish them (i.e. not the NRL/clubs).