Appropriate Matt. Really fucking appropriate.
After the pictures were initially released on a college gossip site, thedirty.com, the media caught wind and the pictures wound up in the hands of media giants tmz.com and perezhilton.com. Obviously, word spread to even larger media outlets such as Fox Sports and MSN.com, and Leinart was instantly roasted by journalists, television commentators, bloggers, and fans.
Leinart, who has had a generally well-liked and well-mannered relationship with the public, really destroyed his good-boy image with this incident. Journalists and other media sources, in conflict with the opinion of the public (round of applause for the USC PR team for keeping his true image at bay), have often reported Leinart difficult to work with and, well, an asshole. Now the public have a reason to agree.
A very select few sports commentators, namely ESPN Pardon the Interruption’s Michael Wilbon, have taken the opposing point of view, declaring Leinart’s actions the actions of a “normal college boy,” or the actions of the “all American quarterback enjoying his benefits.”
Um, pardon THIS interruption. NO!
Leinart, you are NOT in college anymore. These “frat boy” antics are TOTALLY repulsive and completely irresponsible. I don’t feel bad for you crying that you can’t just live a normal life and have underage chicks drinking in your hot tub! News flash: you don’t have a normal life! Part of being an athlete, and in turn an entertainment celebrity, is understanding that while you reap incredible benefits, you also make several sacrifices. When you play on a team, you represent that organization. When you signed your contract, you signed a document bonding you to other members of that team and that organization, and accepted the fact that now when you are in the public eye, it is your responsibility to make your behavior an accurate reflection of that organization.
GROW UP LEINART. Not only did you just totally destroy your credibility as a professional athlete (because you know, everyone wants to trade and pay money for the frat boy gone wrong from Southern California), you alienated your fan base (have fun with your endorsement deals, maybe Coors Light has a spot available), pissed off your coach, and made the Arizona Cardinals look completely stupid and incapable of controlling the behavior of their players. And then had the nerve to cry about it. Do you know how many little boys wear your jersey around?? Do you think they should have to look at you feeding a beer bong to a chick?? Should the sweet old 85 year old USC alumni who plan their year around USC football games have to have their pride in their school destroyed by your childish antics? You should be embarrassed of yourself.
Outside of ranting about Leinart’s incapability to join the rest of the adult world, there is something good to point out in this situation. Building off of my last post when I explored the concept and ethical ties of crisis management, this is the perfect example of a crisis management situation handled flawlessly.
Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt (clearly following the orders of the public relations team) released a statement shortly after the pictures surfaced that said he was “disappointed” in the quarterback, and “reiterated to him [Leinart] the type of behavior we expect at all times from our players.” Whisenhunt continued on to say: “He understands those expectations as well as the level of scrutiny that he’s under because of who he is. It’s being handled internally.” You can read other comments by Coach Whisenhunt here.
This statement was PERFECTION. It completely embodies spinning the story to make the player apologetic and in a nearly positive light, while not telling any lies. Not only does the statement begin with the fact that the organization is upset with his behavior, which protects the image of the Cardinals, but it goes on to show that Leinart has been reprimanded and any other repercussions will be handled behind closed doors. It also shows Leinart to be apologetic, sincere, and understanding of the situation (whether he actually is or not). It gives the media just enough information to dispel rumors, leave little room for questions, and show strength and unity in the organization, while not airing out the Cardinals’ or Leinhart’s dirty laundry in a way that could damage the image of either.
A job well done, a crisis well managed – the press got over it after about a week and are now onto the next thing. Had there been no press release or one that was too vague, the media would still be eating this up with a spoon.
Now maybe Matt will think twice about raging girls that still use fake ID’s. If not, there’s always us PR people to clean up his messes.