If you had the radio, the TV, the internet up and running today, chances you heard, saw, read about the “banana incident” (http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/blog/eye-on-baseball/23113045/adam-jones-sa...) that occurred late in yesterday’s Orioles vs. Giants game. As Jerry and Elaine might say, some “mental defective” hurled a banana at Orioles All-Star center fielder Adam Jones as he patrolled center field in Sunday’s 10-2 drubbing of the San Francisco club.
Jones, who is one of the more prolific “tweeters” in sports today, let it be known he was none too happy with this hateful, stupid gesture, posting on Twitter, “I want to thank whatever slap**** threw that banana toward my direction in CF in the last inning. Way to show ur class you jack***.”
Jones, who noted some people defended said defective’s actions, later tweeted “Good chance this means I get off social media soon.”
In the interim, SF Giants’ management trotted out the obligatory apology: “We were extremely disappointed to learn about the incident involving Adam Jones at AT&T Park yesterday. The Giants have a zero tolerance policy against this type of behavior, which results in immediate ejection from the ballpark. While we have been investigating the matter since we learned of the situation, unfortunately we have been unable to identify the person responsible. We would like to extend our sincerest apologies to Adam and the entire Orioles organization for this unfortunate incident. The inappropriate actions of this individual in no way reflect the values of our organization and our fans.”
Hmmm…where to begin.
This is a blog about public relations, and there are a lot of angles to pursue here. One, you’ve got the issue of social media. Some are already saying that it would be a shame for Adam Jones to leave the social media realm as he’s a role model, top flight individual who “gets” what social media is about—engaging people in a conversation. It’s a way for fans to feel more connected with the tweeting player, because it’s personal.
But that, of course, is why it’s a double edged sword. The Orioles' Chris "Crush" Davis, another popular tweeter, deleted his profile when he got tired of fielding negative posts, claiming he might be involved with PEDs (performance enhancing drugs). Now, Adam Jones is tired of dealing with posters coming out in favor of a fruit-tossing moron. One can understand Jones’ attitude. Why suffer the indignation? Just “delete profile” and go back to just playing baseball.
There’s an important lesson to be learned here for PR pros who are pushing for their clients to take the plunge into social media. It’s like swimming in the ocean. Yeah, a lot of fun, feels good, is good for you, healthy, the great outdoors and all that, but you’ve got that occasional jellyfish sting and, heaven forbid, shark attack to consider.
Might there be a safer way to achieve your client’s goals than to expose them to potential personal online attacks?
Some might argue, well, there’s an OPPORTUNITY here. Perhaps Jones can use his twitter feed to get a dialogue going about why racism is wrong, why acts of hate are destructive on both ends, ultimately for both “hater” and “hatee,” etc.
But that’s not what Adam Jones does for a living. He’s a major league baseball player. He plays ball. He talks about his game. It’s where he just…is himself. Hence, his handle, “Simply AJ.” Maybe he doesn’t WANT to become a spokesperson against racism. But does his status as a major league ballplayer and his decision to “put himself out there” in the online world, mean he has a responsibility to respond, to make a stand?
Like I said, a lot of angles here.
And let’s not forget the SF Giants management. Are they responsible for the behavior of one out of 20,000 fans or whatever the attendance was for the game? Was the apology just “good manners,” since we know the banana-flinger sure as heck wouldn’t be apologizing. Does offering an apology tantamount to admitting some guilt? Do we need to bring Legal in on this? Should SF management be doing a better job of policing the stands? Despite having surveillance cameras, the Giants have been unable to determine who the perpetrator was. Do they need an improved surveillance system? But is having cameras everywhere conducive to a “fun, family experience,” versus turning your ballpark into…well, more like a prison or a fortress?
As for the statement itself, it’s a fine example of public relations crafting.
First, you’re dealing with an emotional issue here. So showing some feeling is appropriate, hence the “extremely disappointed…our sincerest apologies.”
But, you don’t want appear to be wishy-washy about the affair. Want to put some iron in the glove: “Giants have ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY against this type of behavior, which results in IMMEDIATE EJECTION from the ballpark.” (caps are mine, but you get the idea).
As I teach my students, in a crisis situation, people want to know three things, one of which is “what are you doing about it (said crisis)?”
So there’s this: “…we have been investigating the matter since we learned of the situation,” but haven’t been able to identify the person responsible. There’s an unspoken “yet” floating about here, but it is wisely not included. Why? To say “yet” would place management in the position of having to definitely, eventually, identify the person. Writing it this way gives the impression that the investigation is ongoing, but doesn’t put in WRITING that management may ever determine who it is, thus showing the required interest-to-help, without committing to actually helping.
Finally, you want to come back to the ol’ mission statement, that is, your BRAND: “The inappropriate actions of this individual in no way reflect the values of our organization and our fans.” In other words, we’re a class organization here, and this bad stuff isn’t what we are about.
Length is also about right. On the one hand, you don’t want a “The Giants are very sorry about this incident and hope to identify the fan involved.” Too short a statement looks like you’re being given “short shrift,” i.e. we really don’t care. On the other hand, if you write “War and Peace,” you lose people and it begins to look like you’ve got something to cover up, that you have truly committed some fault, because why is so much written here? Recall Shakespeare’s line, “Me thinks he doth protest too much.”
So, what’s the bottomline? Some ticked off Giants fan who didn’t appreciate his team dropping two of three to the Orioles and getting bombed 10-2 decided to “make a statement” and a really, really, stupid one at that. Word to Mr. Banana: Next time, just boo like a normal fan, okay? (And as Ann Landers might add, "see a professional therapist.")
Of course, in today’s world, it’s not that simple. Twenty years ago, chances are only a handful of people would have known what had occurred because there was no Twitter or FACEBOOK or a half-bazillion online blogs, media outlets, news sites, etc., ready to pick up the story and play with it ad nauseum.
On the one hand, that’s what’s good about social media. It brings injustices and stupidity to light so maybe we can teach people do something better, to BE better. Like anything, it can be used for good, But it can also be misused. So you have to be careful how you use it.