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20 years

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

ARod and Communications

We know several facts. Alex Rodriquez (ARod or Aroid or A******), considered one of the best baseball players of all time, has admitted that he used what are now illegal performance enhancing substances when he played for the Texas Rangers in the early part of this decade. He claims he has not used the now banned substances since he has been with the NY Yankees. Fairly recently, in answer to a direct questom from Katie Couric on "60 Minutes," he looked her in the eye and said "No." as to whether he had ever taken performance enhancing drugs.

After the information was first reported by Sports Illustrated last weekend, Rodriquez came clean in a tough, but friendly interview on ESPN. This quick "come clean" interview fits into the standard Crisis Communications playbook. If you can make the bad news a one-day or two-day story, you are better off.

Unfortunately for ARod, this is one of the exception stories. It is not a one-day story. It has spread rapidly throughout the US, with ARod now the poster child of the performance enhancing sports culture. His confession became the subject of a question at President Obama's first press conference. I doubt ARod's handlers thought this was going to happen.

And because of who Rodriquez is - playing for the NY Yankees, with a reputation as a great, but not clutch player who has yet to win a World Series ring - this news erupted on the first page of newspapers, not just the first page of the sports section.

I've had emails over the past few days from Red Sox fans who are gloating about another piece of bad news befalling the Yankees and other parents who know I'm a Yankee fan and asking what I say to my son - also a Yankees fan (duh).

Thomas Boswell, a sports columnist for the Washington Post suggested that now that the biggest "cheese" ARod has confessed, that Major League Baseball can move on. Another columnist in the same paper, Mike Wise, publicly took Boswell to task, and suggested that baseball should now release the names of all players it knows took steroids and other now banned substances. ARod is both the fact and symbol of what's wrong with professional sports. Late on Tuesday, another all star player, Miguel Tejada was accused of lying to a Congressional committee about drugs and sports.

I side with the full come clean story. Athletes trying to supe-up their performances is a decades-old story. It's not as if they all do it, but when you fit it in with all the other stories, too many of them do it and too many kids think it's okay for them to cheat or bend the rules for a slight edge.

Bringing it down to communications, events like these do present teaching moments and an opportunity to have discussions with children and co-workers about what is fair, what's acceptable behavior. In tough economic times, it's not uncommon to see people bend rules with an "ends justify the means" mentality.

Does ARod influence your life - work or personal situation. Does it present a teaching moment?

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