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