Over the past weekend, a professional women’s basketball player made a name for herself in precisely the way any athlete would be wise to avoid.
Cappie Pondexter, one of the stars of the WNBA, published the following tweets in response to the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami on her Twitter account. As reported by the Associated Press:
“What if God was tired of the way they treated their own people in there own country! Idk guys he makes no mistakes.”
“u just never knw! They did pearl harbor so u can’t expect anything less.”
Pondexter later posted the following apology:
“I wanna apologize to anyone I may hurt or offended during this tragic time…I didn’t realize that my words could be interpreted in the manner which they were. People that knw me would tell u 1st hand I’m a very spiritual person and believe that everything, even disasters happen 4 a reason and that God will shouldn’t be questioned but this is a very sensitive subject at a very tragic time and I shouldn’t even have given a reason for the choice of words I used.”
“The least thing I wanted was to hurt or offend anyone so again I truly apologize. If you’ve lost respect for me that’s totally fine but please don’t let me or my words lose the respect of u the WNBA and what it stands for.”
“I’m very strong woman evn strong enough 2 admit an apologize when I’m wrong. Twitter is a voice and wth tht I wanna apologize again.”
Tomorrow, the process of image rehabilitation will begin for Tiger Woods, and from that point forward, he’ll be putting the scandal of the last few months behind him.
Many, many people — sportswriters, public relations specialists, etc. — have weighed in with their thoughts of what he should have done, or be doing in the days ahead. I’ve put together a few representative samples here to a) take a look at some of these suggestions and b) debunk some of the assumptions that have been/continue to be made about Tiger’s situation, primarily because Tiger Woods and the reaction to him provide some noteworthy examples of the world professional athletes inhabit, and ultimately, what they should be prepared to deal with.
In the course of going to Tiger Woods’ web site earlier this week to read his statements about the current controversy involving him, I was surprised to see that the site was now being operated by MLB.com.
I’m not sure what the thinking was behind that. The site itself — the current maelstrom aside — does little to brand him in any meaningful way; in fact, it really is just straightforwardly generic. Moreover, it’s not as if Tiger Woods needs MLB for increased distribution of his content or to make it easier for people to find him online.
But if there’s a compelling reason for having a company dedicated only to managing the branding of pro athletes handling your online activities instead of a corporate entity like MLB.com, it’s that MLB.com is not paying attention the way that they should be. To make this point, I need go no further than the statement Tiger posted today about his personal transgressions. It’s not the statement that concerns me — it’s the fact that the site has allowed upwards of 4,000 comments to be posted (with more happening every second) without any apparent vetting whatsoever.
Generally speaking, brand awareness is a good thing, and if you’re an athlete, and you’re instantly recognizable to people off the street, some of whom may not even necessarily be fans of your sport, that’s typically not bad, either.
But if an athlete has goals for himself regarding how he’s perceived, both in the short term (in regard to his talent, for example, or other characteristics that define who he is as a player) or in the long-term (how he eventually fits into the pantheon of players who preceded him), just having people know who you are isn’t enough.
There’s no better example of this than Tony Romo.