Brady’s Words in Hot “Water”

Let’s take a trip to Foxborough, MA, a lovely town in Norfolk County about 22 miles southwest of Boston. This charming settlement is named after Charles James Fox, a member of Parliament who deeply supported the American Colonies leading up to the Revolution. It was also once home to the world’s largest straw hat factory. Most notably, it is home to Gillette Stadium and the three-time Superbowl Champion New England Patriots. On Sunday September 18, 2011 the Patriots played host to the San Diego Chargers in a game that was uncharacteristically played at 4:15 p.m. in order to accommodate the visitors hailing from the Southwest corner of the country.

A kind signal indeed, however a more peculiar action was politely volunteered four days earlier by New England’s own signal caller, quarterback Tom Brady.

In a weekly interview with local reporters from the team’s locker room, Brady was asked “How much are you looking forward to the home opener, any message to the fans early on?”

With a wry smile, and his left arm leaning against the locker he utters “Yeah, start drinking early!” Eloquent in its brevity, but that’s not all! Through the reporter’s hoots and hollers he proceeds; “Get nice and rowdy, 4:15 game that’s a lot of time to get lubed up, come out here and cheer for the home team”. The question is asked at the 6:32 mark of the video.

Fans rejoice in the streets, beer flows, and everybody’s happy! In a perfect world, may be. But here in reality there is always someone who is offended, responds sensitively, or loses their religion over public statements from a role model who needs to “carry themselves like a responsible adult”. That’s not what this blog is about (who knew?!?).

The response that generated concern was that of Stacey James, vice president of Media Relations for the New England Patriots. Before things could get too out of hand with angry mothers, drunken fans, or bored retired elders, she attacked the matter head on with a release stating what Tom Brady meant to say was “stay hydrated, drink a lot of water, be loud, drink responsibly”. Did she hear the same thing the rest of us did?

Even a village idiot can read between Brady’s lines the way Brady reads a defense. Why such a watered-down, almost naïve reiteration of Brady’s statement? You’re guesses are as good as mine.

This certainly is not the first time a celebrity has made a statement then been forced to recant, or better yet, have someone else cover their no-no square. It’s everywhere, every day. Celebrities like Mel Gibson, Tracy Morgan, and Tiger Woods have said and done shoddier things to people, the information leaked, the public lashed out, they issue their apology, and life carried on. The Brady/James episode is by no means to the level of the previous three mentioned, nor has there been as violent a backlash, but it makes the average person start to wonder “how naïve do these public relations people think we are?”

It’s understandable that James was simply doing her job and diffusing a possible public outcry. By nipping the issue in the bud, she can protect the face of the franchise and its franchise player. However, there is a concern with the way Brady’s words were “re-framed”. James simply takes advantage of the fact that the word “alcohol” was never expressed, so no literal interpretation is available. To “clear up” Brady’s statement, it is directly assessed to the intent to “stay hydrated, and drink a lot of water”.

The book THINK Public Relations refers to the challenge of being a spokesperson stating “what a spokesperson tells the media is not considered a personal opinion, but rather management’s official response or stance to a situation or event”.  Blame cannot necessarily be placed on Stacey James for doing what the job calls for, but in a manner that isn’t so half-hearted would be greatly appreciated. Was it because she wasn’t given much to work with? Was she rushed to release a statement? Did she slap together something, say “good enough”, and the rest is history?

Perhaps a better approach could have been taken. According to Dan Williams, a corporate communications consultant and former network news correspondent, there was. Williams states “the more honest and upfront someone is when acknowledging an issue, the quicker the public will accept a follow-up explanation”.

Williams goes on to offer an alternative response. “We hope everyone realizes that Tom was joking with the reporters. The fact is neither Tom Brady nor the New England Patriots organization endorses irresponsible alcohol consumption or the behavior associated with. We understand some people will drink before and during games, we just stress they do so responsibly.”

When watching the interview, it’s clear that Brady cracks the joke in order to lighten up the droll, clichéd interview questions he faces from week to week. Russell Goldman, a New England Sports blogger, commented “I honestly don’t think Brady meant any harm in his comments. I think he was talking about his hope for an energetic and loud crowd on Sunday. I think too much is being made of it.” It should be that simple and that should be the end of it. Brady knows it, the reporters knew it, and the American people know it.

Let’s face it, we get it. Man says something, something gets taken out of context, company corrects with statement, the end. Most issues never go beyond that. Brady doesn’t apologize which should be enough of a clue that he meant what he said in good fun. The release of a statement in order to protect the organization is fine as well.

It simply comes down to the fact that there isn’t a believable way to spin what Brady said, so why bother? Does the organization REALLY think the public will eat that up and say “oh, I understand, hooray sobriety, go Pats!” So why feed the public in a high chair spouting here comes the airplane? They’re not hungry.

-Dan Williams III

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33 thoughts on “Brady’s Words in Hot “Water”

  1. In an article written by James E. Lukaszewski he states that the most challenging part of crisis communication management is reacting – with the right response – quickly. This is because behavior always precedes communication. Non-behavior or inappropriate behavior leads to spin, not communication. In emergencies, it’s the non-action and the resulting spin that cause embarrassment, humiliation, prolonged visibility, and unnecessary litigation.

    Do you think the media person made this a crisis type situation? Did a statement need to be put together?

    • I don’t believe necessarily that Stacey James made it a “crisis” type situation, but I do believe a different statement could have been made. Having a statement made in order to cover your organizations behind is okay, I have no problem with that. Something like “The New England Patriots hope for a good, energetic crowd this weekend and greatly encourage responsible behavior.” I feel that would have been MORE than fine. My biggest concern centers around a flighty statement that nobody was ever going to buy in to.

      Since her statement was made, a radio sports show host Scott Van Pelt, also an ESPN anchor, discussed whether or not her response was necessary because stadiums and the NFL rely heavily on alcohol promotions on billboards, sponsorships, and commercials so a sensitive approach to the alcohol subject is a little hollow.

  2. Dan,
    I love the way this was written- truly conversational style, with a lot of good points making up the “meat” of the story.

    I do agree with you on both your opinion of the public making too much out of nothing and James’s comment being a litte too much. Her comment made me take a second look at his, to be honest with you and just seemed really phony to me. Like you said, does she not know that most of us understand he was talking about alcohol? We’re not stupid. Even though this was a glitch on her part, i believe that PR people are still human- still capable of mistakes, slip-ups and errors. We can’t hold them on this ridiclously high pedastool, and account them for the mistakes that their clients make. This is a grown, sober ( as far as we know), intelligent man who knew what he was saying. Like you said, he was probably just trying to lighten the mood. instead of him being held accountable to whoever for his words, why should she now bear the brunt of it?
    In response to Prof. Lutrell’s question, I think this was looked at as a crisis -type situation. There was maybe not a whole lot of it for it to be a “scandal” , but there was enough backlash where there called for a recanted statement. I would have personally liked to see one by Brady himself, as i think letting your rep(s) speak for you is a cop out, but hey, they are doing what they are paid to do. And if there wasn’t a severe backlash, i believe that crisis management can be done anyway to make sure that everything still runs smoothly with no breaks or uncessary waves. in their discretion, they believed that one was needed. In my personal opinion, if I would have been in James’s shoes, I probably would have made one myself (after initally checking out the reaction to it), but I would have gone with the later statement provided. Trying to convince the public that the man wasn’t talking about alcohol when he clearly was can further offend the already offended people.
    -Jaleesa

    • I guess being critical of the spokesperson could be a bit harsh, but the point of her response was to fan any flames that ignite from Brady’s statement, and it appeared more to fuel the fire.

      I agree whole-heartedly regarding a statement from Brady. A quick comeback with something like “I’m just playing, but a good, rowdy fan base is something the team feeds off of and will make for a great football atmosphere.” BAM! Yes, it can be that easy. 😛

      • Correct! Her response really didnt help the situation, it negatively added to it. i personally wouldn’t have thought that much of it until after her initial statement came out. I would have felt like she was trying to get over on me and insult my intelliegence. We all know he was talking about alcohol 🙂 . Like you said, either she could have re-worded it better, or should have let him make a better recanting statement similar to the one you made. That would have been the better option. Maybe he should hire you, or at least let you give James some pointers lol
        -Jaleesa

  3. So many people put so much stock into what athletes say. They’re athletes! Brady’s job is to throw a ball, not be the face of the organization. I think the media is so desperate for content sometimes that they bastardize their art for the sake of selling something to the public.

    • Very valid point. The only thing I’ll say against it is that whether or not his job is to be the face of the franchise, he IS. Whenever someone thinks of the New England Patriots, they go straight to TOM BRADY! A sports fan will come back with “oh well there is Wes Welker, Bill Belichik, Deion Branch, etc”. A lot of women know Tom Brady first and the New England Patriots second. He has made a name for himself and helped create a dynasty in New England.

      As for people putting stock in athletes I could not agree more. They are people, and some of them really bad ones, some of them GREAT ones. When you’re on the outside it is so hard to determine what kind of person they are based on how they are in front of a camera. Some have 3 or 4 charities in their name, but kiss hands and shake babies rather than the opposite.

      • i agree with both statements. Really, it’s not the athlete’s jobs to be the face of the entire franchise, but when you have a player who is very popular (think Lebron when he was playing for the Cavs as well), and you have regular people who practically idolize athletes and other famous people, what they say can hold a lot of weight and they themselves are under their own form of scrutiny, on and off the field, court, or whatever. They do have a responsibilty for the words that come out of their mouth simply because they are in the face of the public eye, and they have impressionable fans (young and old alike) to consider. And that’s what makes it news- the problem is, instead of highlighting the good, more often, media harps on and plays up the not-so-good. This was just an example of something said that probably wasnt the best thing to say, but got blew out of porportion.

  4. This illustrates thoroughly what was definitely not the best PR strategy to cover up what Tom Brady said. Couldn’t she have asked him to say something else later in the game, along the lines of “don’t drink and drive” so that it would have been coming from him and not her just scrambling to think of something? It doesn’t seem very resourceful when as a PR person it would be necessary to think on your feet in a situation like this.

    • Exactly! There were multiple angles that could have been taken in order to present the public with more accurate and informative information. They could have clarified saying “he wants an excited, energetic crowd! Drink responsibly!” or just have Brady reiterate what it was he meant. All of which would have blown over smoothly with no real public outcry.

      • But then we have to remember that this was done in an interview, maybe not with his PR rep involved. PR pros cannot always cup a hand over their client’s mouths; they just have to clean up the spit-up. I do agree that James could have done a whole lot better, and it is her job along with others in the field that she stays on her toes for her clients. But, this is a grown man we are talking about, that had his own mind, and his own choices to make. It sucks, but that is one of the downsides of being in Public Relations.
        -Jaleesa

  5. Dan,

    I completely agree with this statement being unnecessary, but I’m sure she was just trying to cover their tracks however, it sounds like she made it worse by sugar coating something that was an obvious statement. I like the angle you mentioned, by saying he was just cracking a joke and we didn’t mean for it to be taken out of context, and we do not support irresponsible drinking. I think some PR practitioners are so quick to act just to play it safe, that they don’t realize the public isn’t falling for their silly statements. Being honest can work in their favor and people might respect that more. Granted, I can see the side that Tom Brady is a roll model, and putting the wild/party image out there may not be the best idea. But really I think the press making a big deal about this statement is bringing more attention than what would have been recognized anyway.

    Taylor Maguire

  6. I think at some point people, fans, media, PR agents, need to realize that these people are still adults. It’s not as if he said “Kids, go get drunk and watch football.” And for some, his statement might have amped them up to watch the game and partake in the festivities. So this may have been a two-sided PR move..good for some, bad for some. You simply can’t please everyone.

    • Exactly, but at this point it may have been safer for the organization to please no one. If it is that important to portray the importance of supporting your team or getting involved in pre-game festivities then there has to be a better way. One more logical and more entertaining than a subtle reference that may even go unnoticed, causing a stir like this one.

  7. The slack that public relation specialist pick up can be a bit of a boulder. Do this, do that, why didn’t you say this, or why didn’t you say that?
    The whole point is that with this profession you must be able to maintain a relationship between consumers and the brand! With the statement, or with out the statement the team would have received hell from the public. Thats just how public opinion is, you can’t stop it! it reminds me of a worried parent. You will go through what ever, and persuade whom ever to make sure your child name is cleared up. I don’t think the statement released by the player, nor the spokes person hurt the team in any way. But I’m pretty sure that a lot of “worried parents”, felt a little better. I mean when i cover my butt to my mom, sometimes she appreciates a little lie more than the bitter bare truth. Foolish maybe? but sometimes slightly affective.
    -Ashley c

    • YOU LIE TO YOUR MOTHER?!?! I’M TELLING!

      Very valid point, though. Looking at it from the other perspective you can’t help but agree that she was just doing her job, and a higher up may have told her “just say this, who cares, and it’s over”. So she may even be in the “don’t shoot the messenger” position. You could be just as correct as anyone else.

  8. Honestly, what can we expect from this field? Our job is first and foremost to prevention and damage control. Although Tom is a human and like anyone else he may say the wrong thing at the wrong time. I feel like that’s why we have PR in the first place. We come in and clean up the mess. When I initially read his comments I didn’t find them to be too offensive. Although I know better and re-read them again to get several meanings from it. I personally took it as he wanted to see a live and rowdy crowd. Crowds are already like that so I mean what’s the problem? The real issue I found was when he said “lubed up”. Lol Perhaps I’m the only one that found this to be a strange choice of words but nonetheless it could have been interpreted in a negative way. I completely understand why Stacy James had to say what she said. The rewording of his comments was to obviously make fans that aren’t as “rowdy” more comfortable. Though we can’t make everyone comfortable and shouldn’t be expected to do so. Especially when the damage isn’t that bad.

    • “lubed up” is in reference to alcohol as a social lubricant. If you already knew that then I apologize.

      I don’t have any issues with what Tom Brady said and I completely understand Stacey James’ need to respond just in case. It comes down to the thought process that went into drafting the statement. At what point did someone decide “just say it’s he meant water, people will buy it” ? Hopefully none for the sake of the public. If it DID go down in that manner, then is that REALLY how naive spokespersons, PR reps, and crisis communications consultants think we are? I certainly hope not.

      • See ! you’re rewording made me think about the comment in a different way. It just shows how powerful words can really be . I don’t think we have much control over perception when it comes to words. Especially the words of someone else. Despite what we’re told/taught. People will hear what they want and do with it what they please. My interpretation was something else before you said that, but thank you for clarifying. As far as thinking the public is naive , I’d have to say if they’re not naive themselves then surely they know better that WE (the public) KNOW BETTER.

      • I just had to reply to this, because I wanted to know the same thing. Which shows that you have to be careful with your choice in words. There were at least two people that read this blog that didnt understand what the context “lubed up” was in. Now that you cleared it up, I can get my mind out of the gutter, because alcohol was NOT the first thing that came up :). We only represent this class.
        -Jaleesa

  9. I sent my earlier message prematurely….watching gossip girl while finishing up work :)….back to the discussion. We represent this class; imagine others who have heard, or read, the article with Brady’s words that might have looked at the text we were unsure about in different ways other than what was meant. Common sense, but still…it’s like why use jargon that only people who drink would know when what you’re saying being processed by all types of people? Just a thought.
    BTW , not trying to irritate anyone with all these replies. Just trying to speak my mind, keep a convo going, and get an A on participation lol.

  10. As important as it is to be aware of all the dangers any statement a public figure can give at any moment in time, sometimes I can’t help but roll my eyes. Some of it just seems like plain common sense.
    But then again, the notion of common sense is completely moot in this world where all walks of life are vying for center stage. That rep – she did her job properly, I think. It probably seems condescending (it does to me, at least…but then again, I was raised with the whole no-drinky-while-driving mentality; not everyone is), but I figure that’s just what has to be done.
    And you’re right: There’ll always be someone offended. It’s up to the message deliverer to decide if it’s worth caring about the offended party. Considering the mass appeal of a sport like this, I can see why there’d be a drive to slap that disclaimer up.

  11. This kind of stuff makes me laugh. I don’t understand the point of straight-up lying to cover someone’s butt. But then again, I also don’t understand why people would be shocked/appalled that a professional football player would be telling people to drink and have fun at the game. People who listened to the interview are probably already football fans, and while all of them may not be drinkers, I don’t think they’d be offended at this comment. I understand why Stacy tried to cover it up, I guess, but it seems silly she’d suggest that he was telling people to drink water. I think she should put a positive spin on his message instead of completely lying. Maybe say “start drinking early” as in, begin to tailgate- and just because you begin drinking earlier doesn’t mean you have to drink mass amounts. Something like that would be more believable. Also, “rowdy” doesn’t mean get wasted; it just means get excited for the game. I think some people just search for things to complain about. The PR attempts made had good intentions, but I think saying that Brady was joking with the reporters was more effective than telling people he was talking about drinking water…

    -Silvana

  12. Personally, I dont think the PR person should have even made a statement from what Brady said. In the game of football being a fan it’s all about the game and the booze! I really dont believe what he said would have been a major conflict within the media. In some instances it may have been comprehended wrong, but for the PR person to attempt to water the statement doiwn like that is an insult to the public.

  13. I agree with most people here that the PR person should have not spoken about it at all but yet again we live in the US, where everything a celebrity says or does is a matter of importance to the public. James did the right thing by protecting her franchise but indeed chose the wrong message.

    I think Brady’s statement was a very normal response that you would here from any sports’ fan. He was trying to be funny but unfortunately, it does not work like that when the public is involved. If you are someone with a microphone, if you are someone whom the public are listening to, then you have to be very careful about what you say.

    In this situation, you have think about people who love sports and people who hate sports. You have to think about people who don’t believe in anything and people who believe in God as the ultimate power. When you are a celebrity, your comments are not a matter of personal opinion anymore. They are a matter of public importance and you can’t just say what you feel like saying. It might not sound pleasing to some but this is one of the prices you have to pay for being a person of public attention.

  14. Dan,
    His PR person definitely made the situation worse because it honestly wasn’t that serious. If the reporters got a kick out of his statement then it shouldn’t have harmed anyone else. As humans we have to realize that athletes and celebrities are human too, and we all tend to take things out of content when they say something as if they can’t make mistakes. I believe that he was trying to be more relatable to his fans, although his PR agent could have took a backsit with those horrifying comments..”Well what he meant to say was”……..nobody fell for that! I understand she was only trying to protect the franchise but according to the PR code of ethics honesty is the best route in any situation. Being dishonest created a bigger mess, and acttracted more media attention then what was intended. We all know what we said, and he meant to say what he said. She could at least gave probable causes as to WHY he said what he said rather than trying to clean up WHAT he said! Makes sense?

    -Martise W. :]

  15. Dan,
    After listening to the Brady’s response, it certainly seems she jumped the gun on a problem that wasn’t voiced as a problem. Her coming out to even say anything and to try and make the public think that the spectators (who he was clearly referring to) weren’t going to drink and have some fun is a bit naive. I understand trying to keep a situation calm and stop any problems before they arise, but I guess, I didn’t see a point to the comment in the first place. Beers at games are outrageous in price (7.00/beer at Comerica Park, 8.50/beer at DTE) with prices that high, they only remain that high because they know people will buy them because they are going to the game to have a good time, eat some nachos or hot dogs, drink some beer and cheer their team on.
    On the bright side, we know that the PR reps for the Patriots are trying to watch out for them and do their job, even if it is a little overdone, in this case.

    Dayna

  16. Wow, I guess PR people in the NFL forgot football players are still football players, besides the fact Tom Brady is the most positive player and perhaps the face of the NFL he simply said a joke and PR officials took things out of hand by saying anything at all. Very frustrating this wasn’t even close to a issue before she said anything. He said a simple joke which was hurt by a PR official, she simply jumped the gun, brady should have replied becoming her PR rep.

  17. When I think about this I crack a smile. Tom Brady’s NFL persona has been nothing but a positive one, I’m sure that he already knows what he can and what he can’t say. The fact that Brady said what he said and never even mentioned alcohol is proof. The PR rep probably had an anxiety attack and put out a statement making the situation worse. I don’t think America is that dumb or stupid. Regardless of whatever a celeb does, someone is always going to be offended. If a celebrity wins an award and they get up and say, “I want to thank God.” I’m sure that a lot of people were offended. But when have you ever seen that person put out a statement saying “what I meant to say was…” America already knows what you meant to say and the fact the PR rep just lied to the public doesn’t protect the brand more than it hurts it. In my opinion.
    -Orlando

  18. I agree, I don’t think Brady ment anything bad by what he said. Yes, you could tell he was just trying to lighten up the mood. When you think of big football games, first things that usually come to mind are tailgaiting, screaming fans, food and BEER! Beer is sold at the games and always advertised. So what if he wanted people to gave a few drinks and get ready for the game. I don;t think he ment to offend anyone. But from a PR persective she did the right thing! She tamed the fire before it got out of contol, it may not seem like a big deal but to some people it might be! I think it was better to try and control and fix the situation.
    -Rhonda Farah

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