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Derrick Rose’s apology doesn’t count
When a high-profile athlete makes an ill-advised decision — as some are wont to do — and their transgression becomes public fodder, there are a number of ways the athlete and his agent/publicist can respond. But it really just boils down to the right way and the wrong way.
Derrick Rose chose the wrong way.
Responding to allegations of cheating on his S.A.T. and, more recently,
a photo that surfaced of him flashing a gang sign during his time at
Memphis, Rose, his agent, B.J. Armstrong, and his public relations representatives from Wasserman Media Group took the cowardly way out by
failing to address the former and issuing a pathetically predictable written
public statement to address the latter.
While I don’t doubt that Derrick Rose would like the public to believe
he’s anti-everything bad, we’ve heard nothing from the mouth of Derrick
Rose that would suggest remorse or a willingness to lead by example.
It comes as no surprise to anyone that the vast majority of these
statements aren’t written by the players themselves, and sometimes not
even seen or approved by the player before they’re issued. Every word
of these statements is scrutinized and manufactured by people who make
decisions on behalf of these players so nothing can be taken out
of context or questioned by the media.
If you were in Rose’s situation and someone was falsely accusing you of
cheating on an S.A.T., wouldn’t you want to defend your reputation?
Wouldn’t you want to refute anyone who was questioning your
intelligence? Wouldn’t you stop at nothing to prove that you weren’t a
cheater? If you were fervently anti-gang, and a photo surfaced of you
flashing a gang sign as a joke, wouldn’t you make a mad rush to
convince the world that your actual opinion is entirely contrary to the
image everyone sees of you?
That’s exactly what Philadelphia Phillies slugger Raul Ibanez did
recently when someone suggested his inflated numbers could mean he’s
using steroids. He didn’t issue a public statement through his people.
He didn’t let soemone else clean up. He looked a reporter in the eye,
and told him exactly how outrageous the claims were and offered to do
whatever it takes to prove his innocence.
People remember images — and the image of Derrick Rose flashing
a gang sign will be seared into the memory of basketball fans
everywhere for a very long time. The written apology will be forgotten
tomorrow. People would have remembered the image of a sincerely remorseful Rose at a podium speaking directly to Chicago’s youth telling them to avoid gangs like a swine flu-stricken enemy.
If Derrick Rose cared about his reputation, if be being a role model
and a person young people can look up to were actually important to
him, he would appear in public and answer the tough questions reporters
throw at him. He would look into a camera and say, with his own words,
that gangs are a scourge and that he grasps the gravity of the
That he did not do this tells young people mentioned in the statement
that you do not have to actually apologize if you have enough money
because you can just pay someone to do it for you.
So why do athletes tend to issue sanitized written statements in these situations rather than face the camera?
For the answer, I talked to Steve Shenbuam, president and founder of Bradenton, Fla.-based Game On Media, a company that teaches junior and professional athletes media awareness, communication training and social responsibility. Shenbaum said the danger is that during the public apology, if the athlete isn’t comfortable or seems defensive, then it could do more damage than a written statement.
The ideal situation, he said, is to avoid these situations in the first place. That’s why over the last year and a half, Shenbaum has instituted a social media awareness curriculum to Game On’s training program.
“Five years ago, an athlete wasn’t worried about being interviewed walking down the street with a cell phone camera,” said Shenbaunm. “With Derrick Rose, this didn’t occur recently. It was two years ago. If it were up to me, I’d have the athlete get on camera, explain the situation and take accountability.”
There’ s a silver lining in all of this, however. Derrick Rose is not a lost public relations cause. Shenbaum says social media flare ups like these can be a great teaching tool to illustrate to an athlete just how much public influence they have.
“Maybe the lesson will be that he is a role model,” said Shenbaum. “There are young people that look up to Derrick, particularly in Chicago because he made it out of a very tough environment.
“What I would say to Derrick is, ‘OK. You did something that was perceived as a negative and it got a ton of press. So think about how powerful this is going to be. You can also do something positive and get even more press.’ So maybe it’s a lesson on the power of Derrick Rose.”
And we’re beginning to see here in Chicago exactly how powerful Derrick Rose is. He’s certainly proven he’s mature enough on the court, but that’s only half the battle. He needs to turn this situation into a positive. An inability to do so will mean that no matter how well he does on the court, he’ll never transcend the game and achieve iconic status.
Issuing a written public statement and avoiding fans and the media is cheap, cowardly and, frankly, boring.
If “Derrick Rose is anti-gang, anti-drug, and anti-violence,” as he
states in the third person, then prove it. Tell Chicagoans in your own
words. Real men do this.