Posts Tagged ‘sports’
He’s at it again.
You may remember that last month, Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas refused to attend a White House ceremony celebrating the Bruins’ championship. At the time, he posted his rationale on his Facebook page (he believes the government has grown too large).
Mr. Thomas followed up with another post to his Facebook page last week, this one standing with the Catholic Church over the Obama Administration regarding contraception:
“I Stand with the Catholics in the fight for Religious Freedom.
‘In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.’ — by Martin Niemöller, prominent German anti-Nazi theologian…”
As you might imagine, the media had questions about his post. But in this remarkable interview, Mr. Thomas refused to answer any “personal” questions that didn’t have to do with hockey:
Mr. Thomas makes the case that his views live in his “personal” life and that he shouldn’t have to answer for his provocative personal posts in his “professional” life.
Let me be clear: Thomas has the right to say whatever he wants. But this article isn’t about his rights. It’s about his refusal to accept that there is a predictable cause and effect when dealing with the media.
If you make controversial statements, reporters are going to ask about them. The media don’t draw a neat line between “personal” and “professional” lives, and no one man has the power to change the way the media operate. Mr. Thomas’ behavior suggests that he wants the right to yell “fire!” in a crowded movie theater and then refuse to answer any questions about his actions afterwards.
Nor can Mr. Thomas credibly say he’s making those statements in his “personal” life. His Facebook page isn’t restricted to friends and family – the moment he allows fans to enter his network, he’s no longer communicating solely in his “personal” life. Cultivating and communicating with one’s fan base is, at least to some extent, a professional activity.
Mr. Thomas can continue to speak out as he wishes. It’s a free country, as he would say, and he has the right to say what he wants. But I wish he would recognize that his statements come with a price. Reporters are going to ask him about his comments, and they’re going to write their stories with or without his participation. (In fact, a defensive “no comment” answer followed by a walk-off makes it a better story.)
When they ask Thomas about his statements, it creates a distraction for his team, begging this question: When should a team player subordinate his public statements to the greater interest of his team? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
Tags: Boston Bruins, media training disaster, media training disasters, sports, Tim Thomas
Posted in Crisis Communications | 3 Comments »
There may be no “I” in “team,” but there are two in “Bruins goalie.”
When members of the Boston Bruins NHL championship team went to the White House this week for the Stanley Cup winners’ annual meet-and-greet with President Obama, goalie Tim Thomas refused to attend. On his Facebook page, Mr. Thomas explained his decision:
“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People…Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.
This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic.”
What caught my eye (other than his odd grammatical choices) was the last sentence of his statement. But Thomas wasn’t alone in taking that “one and only statement” stance. Bruins President Cam Neely released his own statement:
"As an organization we were honored by President Obama’s invitation to the White House. It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our team’s achievement from last season. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization. This will be the last public comment from the Bruins organization on this subject."
Mr. Thomas has received mixed reviews for his decision, some seeing his move as selfish and others seeing it as principled. I side with those who labeled his a selfish act, since it hijacked the headlines for his own beliefs instead of allowing the spotlight to shine solely on his team’s achievement.
But the two statements got me wondering: Is it a good idea for media spokespersons to release a statement that says, “This is the only comment I will be making?”
Generally speaking, I’d say no. Anthony Weiner and Herman Cain also released similar statements – but the questions kept coming anyway, and both men were forced to abandon their pledges not to discuss their sex scandals any further.
That happened in this case, as well. Despite his Monday pledge not to talk about this issue any further, Cam Neely talked about it again on Tuesday. His pledge lasted less than 24 hours.
There’s good reason for a goalie to put up a defensive guard on the ice, but there’s little reason for media spokespersons to do so in a public statement. Doing so can make them look obstructionist, controlling, or both – and they could accomplish the same result without taking that risk.
Both Mr. Thomas and Mr. Neely should have left that sentence out. When reporters inevitably asked them about the incident, they could have simply said:
“You know, I’ve said everything I’m going to about this matter. It’s time to put the focus back on our play in the ice, and I’m not going to allow this to create any distractions.”
Note: I bolded the last line of each statement for emphasis. They were not bolded in the original statements.
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Tags: Boston Bruins, Cam Neely, crisis communications, sports, Tim Thomas
Posted in Crisis Communications | 3 Comments »
I rarely write about media disasters involving sports figures. I suppose that after years of watching steroid scandals, vicious on-court fights and player strikes, I’ve come to expect little from professional athletes.
But this interview from late last week caught my eye, mostly because of the lessons it offers all of us who aren’t professional athletes.
The trouble started in last week’s Monday Night Football game, when New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis intercepted a pass intended for a Miami Dolphins player and returned it 100-yards for a touchdown. Replays of the interception showed that Mr. Revis might have committed a penalty for making contact with the receiver, but he got away without a penalty being called.
Radio host Mike Francesa interviewed Mr. Revis late last week and relentlessly went after him for what he viewed as an uncalled penalty.
That’s where things got interesting. Fast forward to the 2:00 mark to hear part of the exchange – and stay tuned to the 5:00 mark to hear the surprising end to the interview.
After the testy exchange, a Jets P.R. staff person named Jared interrupted the interview by picking up the phone and saying, “Darrelle, hang up.” He did. And that’s when this mostly non-newsworthy interview suddenly became a story.
What lessons should you learn about ending an interview early?
1. It Always Makes The Story Bigger: Just ask Emily Miller, who, as a member of Secretary Colin Powell’s staff in 2004, infamously pulled the plug on an interview with Meet the Press Host Tim Russert.
2. It Gives Credence To The Charges Made Against You: If you weren’t guilty of whatever you were being accused of, why look so defensive and cut off the interview early? Mr. Revis could have laughed off the charges or said, “Mike, we’ve covered that ground and disagree. What else do you want to talk about?” Instead, his defensive reply suggested he knew he got away with a penalty.
3. The Host Usually Looks Better, The Guest and P.R. Representative Usually Look Worse: The host usually comes out looking like the victim of an overly-aggressive P.R. person, while the guest and P.R. person almost always diminish themselves by abruptly ending the interview. That’s even more true in this case, since Mr. Revis was doing a decent-enough job at handling himself on-the-air before being cut off by his media minder.
A grateful h/t to John Barnett, who tweets at @jocmbarnett.
Tags: Darrelle Revis, media training disaster, media training disasters, Mike Francesa, New York Jets, sports
Posted in Media Training Disasters | 3 Comments »
It turns out Brett Favre has a fetish other than retiring and un-retiring.
The Minnesota Vikings quarterback, it seems, is fond of sending unsolicited nude photos to women.
The NFL is investigating charges that Favre texted photos of his penis to former Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger, who left her job shortly after the incidents allegedly occurred. And she’s not alone – at least two other women have made similar charges.
A good summary of the scandal to date can be found here. Caution: the video at this link contains graphic images.
Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the NFL could fine or suspend Mr. Favre, who could also face lawsuits and legal action.
Is it possible Mr. Favre is innocent? Well, sure – but it seems unlikely, as he’s refused every opportunity to deny the charges. Favre has not spoken about the charges against him, instead taking a page out of Tiger Woods’ inept crisis management playbook. When asked about the crisis last week, he essentially said, “no comment.”
In managing this crisis, Mr. Favre has to balance four competing concerns:
- 1. Protecting his family (Favre is married, has two daughters and a grandson)
- 2. Protecting his reputation
- 3. Protecting his football career
- 4. Protecting his legal standing
As the title of this article (“A Tough Call”) suggests, Mr. Favre has some difficult decisions to make. His attorneys are likely telling him to say nothing in order to reduce any future legal settlements and prevent possible legal actions. I can understand why Mr. Favre would want to follow that approach.
But by doing so, he is throwing his family and reputation to the wolves.
Withholding comment and failing to accept responsibility means the crisis will live a longer life. That means his family’s time in tabloid hell will be unnecessarily prolonged, and his legacy irrevocably tarnished.
There are no good choices here, just “less bad” ones. Perhaps Favre’s current strategy will allow him to hang on to his career and avoid a big financial settlement. But a quick admission of responsibility, followed by a long-overdue retirement, would likely provide Mr. Favre with the best long-term path to public and personal redemption.
Tags: brett favre, crisis communications, jenn sterger, nfl, sports
Posted in Crisis Communications | Please Comment »