A-Rod Needs Good PR Bad

Alex Rodriquez, New York Yankees, front page, New York Daily News, Sunday, January 8, 2008. Rodriquez tested positive for steroid use in 2008Big-ticket baseball is about public relations, and there is no bigger attraction in the big leagues with no greater need for deft PR right now than Alex Rodriguez.

The Sports Illustrated bombshell report that A-Rod tested positive for steroids in 2003 has set off a media frenzy and a baseball fan outcry that threatens to consume the game and the Yankees. Rodriguez has a unquenchable penchant for attention. He is a magnet for controversy that heightens the drama of the game. This could be the moment when the A-Rod show shifts from curious comedy to outright tragedy.

Of course, Alex Rodriguez has blown it before, especially in 2007 with the tasteless self-serving ‘opt-out’ of his Yankee contract during the World Series. He pulled out of that tailspin with a PR offensive (and a $270 million contract) that quelled the angry New York masses and a understandably indignant Hank Steinbrenner, the Yankee owner.

A-Rod went on to win the MVP, hit his 500th homer in a Yankee uniform, divorce his ‘long suffering’ wife Cynthia, pal around with Warren Buffet and Madonna, and skate through with his ‘clean’ image intact as the alternative to the ‘tainted’ Barry Bonds.

Now the New York Daily News is calling for the Yankees to cut him loose and The New York Times opines that A-Rod may be damaged goods beyond repair no matter what his accomplishments.

This is a moment that begs for good PR that follows the simple rules of crisis communications. My advice to A-Rod and his weasel agent, Scott Borass:

  • Hold a press conference. Come clean fully, with emotion, and an understanding of the gravity of the situation.
  • Admit your mistake without equivocation. Admit that you lied, if that is the case.
  • Stress that you have been tested many times over the year and you have been clean for over five years.
  • Vow that you will remain ‘clean’ as long as you play baseball.

Get it all out at once, be contrite, put it to rest, move on. Otherwise, you will be hounded like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire, the Yankees will suffer, fans will suffer, the game will suffer, and, mark my words, most of all you will suffer. Do not underestimate the persistence and viciousness of the New York media and Yankee baseball fans.

Outside A-Rod’s New York City penthouse on Park Ave., fans gave a harsh verdict. “It’s very selfish and unfair,” said Ina Lah, 20, of Connecticut. “The fans trust him, but all he cares about is fun and winning. He needs to make a statement about this.” “He doesn’t care,” said life-long Yankees fan Gabe Tigre, 21, of the Bronx. “He doesn’t care what we think. He’s already got his records and his money.” New York Daily News


  1. Stephen Derksen says:

    Mark, I completely agree. A-Rod may have made the right move by (finally) admitting to using steroids in baseball, but the way in which he did so is clearly an indication that he needs to give a PR practitioner a call.
    By coming “clean” in an exclusive interview with ESPN’s Peter Gammons, A-Rod gave no opportunities to the press to directly question him and begin to establish some credibility again. Sure, going to America’s largest Sports Network gets his story out there, but there’s no two-way conversation. Meanwhile the public is talking and the media are having a field day.
    Don’t get me wrong, the media would be all over this story regardless of the way in which he owned up to it, but holding a press conference – as you said – and “com[ing] clean fully, with emotion, and an understanding of the gravity of the situation” would go a long way to making him seem less like a spoiled playboy, and more like a human being who is susceptible to self-doubt and pressure.
    Furthermore, I think A-Rod needs some media training as well. I’m sure they provide him with the ABCs of such once he started in the big league, but the interview was by no means emotional or direct. He rarely looked at the camera and, at least to me, seemed to be choosing words on the spot. He’s in the most difficult and vital point of his career. His future as a Hall of Famer hinges on how he reacts and continues to play.
    Get the man some PR.

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