Pulse of the Profession

Friday Five: Strike Out – Reputation Obstacles in Sports PR

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To the naked eye, the life of a sports star looks comfortable and care free. Go to practice, show up at the rink, field or court, play and collect from your multimillion dollar contract. It seems, however, that with bigger contacts and bigger personalities comes more temptation, scrutiny and responsibility. Additionally, in the age of social media, any fan can become a “reporter” in the blink of an eye.

In this week’s PRSA “Friday Five” post — an analysis of the week’s biggest public relations and business news and commentary —we look at five sports stars, celebrities or teams that have been the subject of intense media scrutiny, whether it was justified or not.  For athletes and sports teams, the proper management of personal brands and reputations may mean the difference between the hall of fame and fading away in shame. We will explore teams or players currently staring down a crisis and examine whether their public relations response results in a come from behind victory or sudden death.

Ryan Braun Strikes Out With Scripted Apology (Forbes.com)

In the wake of a slew of player suspensions for performance enhancing drug (PED) use by Major League Baseball (MLB) all eyes were on Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun as he issued a public apology. Braun accepted a 65-game suspension for using banned substances last month. This was not the first time Braun has been in the cross hairs of the MLB. Braun tested positive for PEDs in 2011, but his suspension was overturned when an arbitrator ruled that his urine sample was mishandled. Forbes contributor Patrick Rishe believes that Braun mishandled his apology by issuing a statement rather than facing members of the media. He explains, “To Ryan Braun and his team of public relations strategists, why would you put yourself back in the news with this weak apology? Laying out a lame apology places Braun right back into the media cycle, which only furthers public and corporate hostility towards him and his brand.”

A-Rod ‘Saga’ Dominates Major League Baseball: Crisis Communications Management Gone Wrong? (Lessons Learned) (CommPRO.biz)

As the New York Yankees make a push toward the playoffs, their third baseman Alex Rodriguez is in the midst of a firestorm. Rodriguez was recently suspended for 211 games by the MLB for apparent PED use. While he hasn’t confirmed or denied the MLB’s charges, Rodriguez is appealing the suspension and creating controversy with attacks from his public relations and legal representatives this past week. David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, LLC, outlines what each party (Rodriguez, the MLB and the Yankees) should do from a public relations perspective.

Rodriguez Calls End to Public Feuding (New York Times)

The antics of Alex Rodriguez have become national news, thanks to his team of media-friendly lawyers and public relations professionals. After an awkward confrontation with Matt Lauer on the “Today” show, Rodriguez has apparently “instructed his representatives to stand down and refrain from the combative public approach they had adopted in recent days.” Whether or not this edict from Rodriguez is sincere remains to be seen; however, for the meantime, he appears to be taking the right approach. He said, “We really want to just focus on playing good baseball, and 100 percent that all the questions be about baseball. If there’s any questions in the future that are not about baseball, the interview will end at that moment.”

The Media’s Subjective Portrayal of the LIVESTRONG Foundation (Huffington Post)

As the world’s most famous cyclist, Lance Armstrong, admitted using PEDs many predicted the end of the organization he founded, the LIVESTRONG Foundation, which happens to be one of America’s top nonprofit cancer organizations. However, Katherine McLane, Vice President for Communications & External Affairs for the LIVESTRONG Foundation, notes the many accomplishments of the Foundation this past year, including surpassing the 2.5 million “people-served” milestone and receiving the highest rating possible by Charity Navigator. Despite their successes, McLane believes the LIVESTRONG Foundation isn’t getting a fair shake by the media and guesses that reporters are still (rightfully so) angry with Armstrong.

N.Y. Jets distribute ‘Media Bridges’ cards to players (NFL.com)

What do you do when your team has earned the “circus act” moniker over the past few years by the media? The New York Jets, in an effort to try to avoid the negative spotlight by the high-pressure New York media, issued the players a cheat sheet of “media bridges” to use when talking to reporters. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News saw the card and tweeted out images of it. Here are a few media bridges that the Jets suggest using:

  • “That’s not my area of expertise, but I think your audience would be interested in knowing that…”
  • “The real issue here is…”
  • “I wouldn’t even try to take on the job of coaching, what I can tell you is…”

About the author

Rosanne Mottola, APR

Rosanne Mottola, APR

Rosanne Mottola, APR, is public relations manager for the Public Relations Society of America. She is an adjunct professor of public relations at St. John’s University, Staten Island. Mottola obtained a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications from New York University in 2010. You can connect with her on Twitter @RoeMoPR or on LinkedIn.


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