Let’s try this on a regular basis, shall we? After all, sports is about games and while there are certainly business interests, issues that affect sports often teach us how to better handle everyday publicity challenges. So without further adieu, after further review …
1 — Josh Hader vs. Mike Trout — Soon after Brewers pitcher Josh Hader’s years-old distasteful and racist tweets became public, comments were released from an interview that Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred did with USA Today’s Gabe Lacques during which he suggested that Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout would be more popular if he aggressively marketed himself. Bottom line, well, is the bottom line. If Trout’s profile was bigger, so would be MLB’s place in our national discussion.
I’ve long said that athletes could make bigger names for themselves off the field via social media and other personal publicity. Trout, who seems to let his dynamic play and community work shape his brand, has chosen a more low key approach away from the baseball diamond. While Hader’s tweets obviously weren’t part of a publicity plan, it bears asking if the public would respond more favorably to an star athlete if he did more commercials and used social media for fun and funky promotion. Would you talk more about Trout if he posted edgy song lyrics or crazy off-day pics? Maybe he’s just being cautious. Maybe being promotionally “out there” is simply not his personality.
1A — Brewers fans gave Hader a standing ovation upon his return to the mound against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Saturday. As I expected, it didn’t play well outside of the market. Clap for him, fine. To me, standing ovations are for extraordinary performances and comebacks. A return to the field after ignorant and insensitive tweets surface is not special by any means. Like I said on a Milwaukee radio show, his actions going forward will speak loudly for the next several months. It will be a long road to redemption.
2 — NFL kneeling policy nearly sinks Dolphins — The Miami Dolphins said that its player discipline policy for kneeling during the national anthem and other violations was a leaked placeholder. What we now know to be an incomplete template of a league-required disciplinary policy sent social media and sports talk shows into a tizzy. While the Dolphins and other teams may not ultimately discipline its players for kneeling during the anthem, that there was such furor the moment the Associated Press published the language proves that this is a self-inflicted league wound. The topic had been dormant for months and smart money was on it staying that way at least through the offseason. Instead, the NFL and its owners approved a new anthem policy in May which set off the White House and many of those who create their own explanation that Colin Kaepernick and athletes knelt in the first place (often inaccurate). One of the best ways to avoid a PR firestorm is to ignore accusations and threats from someone outside of your league. The NFL did the opposite. That the Dolphins’ template made big news tells you all you need to know about a policy that was created out of fear and manipulation. And it won’t stop unless the owners stand up for their athletes and their rights, and tell the president that they run the league, not him.
3 — Tiger tales — Instead of reading that Francesco Molinari won the British Open, er, The Open Championship, most of us will see headlines that Tiger Woods didn’t win. That’s star power. That’s publicity power.