In my last article, I talked about why bad behavior in sports isn’t worth it. Today we’re going to briefly discuss the road to recovery and “Reputation Repair.
When you breakdown the 10 athletes and coaches featured in our “meltdown extravaganza”, there are a few key factors that have enabled a select few to recover. As for those who haven’t been as fortunate? Well, clearly there are deeper issues involved behind those fabled  implosions.
We can’t provide you with all the specifics needed to repair a severely tarnished image and reputation. But, we can provide you with an overview of why some of the following have fared well and others have not.
Meltdowns – Those Who Have Been Able to Recover and Why
1. Serena Williams
Why? Because Serena quickly moved into “damage control” mode the morning following her completely out of character on the court outburst. She didn’t  run from the story, she addresed the media, and openly discussed what happened. Yes, there were some things that could have been done differently for a more favorable overall response, but the point is she understood the value of her brand, her relationship with her fans and her sponsors, the sport of tennis, etc., and moved into action. She’s back to playing tennis now and the incident (although referenced periodically) is more or less behind her.
2. John McEnroe
Simply put, Mac’s reputation and image are synonymous with his legendary on-court outbursts. Now this doesn’t work for everyone, but McEnroe’s bad boy attitude was what fans, media, and the sport of tennis came to expect and how he was ultimately accepted. Since his retirement from the sport, McEnroe has been able to leverage that reputation by poking fun at it in his major endorsement/spokesperson deals with American Express and National Car Rental. Yes, it works for John, but in no way is it a license for other athletes to follow suit.
3. Bobby Knight
Always a lightning rod for controversy, Bobby Knight has for better or worse endured the public scrutiny of fans, media, parents, and the sport of college basketball, for his treatment of players and hostile behavior on and off the court. Like McEnroe, Knight’s reputation for misbehaving, incendiary temper, etc. precede him and defined him as a coach. But since his retirement from coaching, Knight has enjoyed a successful career as a basketball analyst for ESPN, among other things.
4. Mike Gundy
Oklahoma State Football Coach Gundy became a household name (well, at least for a few weeks) following his now infamous, “I’M A MAN! I’M 40!” press conference tirade while defending one of his players in front of the media. Gundy’s antics led to a spoof of the incident for a local car dealership commercial, late night fodder for talk shows, and parodies of the meltdown on YouTube, etc. for weeks. Has he recovered? Well he lived to coach another day and has been overshadowed in recent years by other news-grabbing situations surrounding the OSU Cowboys (e.g. Dez Bryant situation anyone?).
Meltdowns – Those Who Haven’t Been Able to Fully Recover (At Least Not Yet)
Dennis Green, Hal McRae, Ryan Leaf, and Jim Everett.
We can more or less lump these individuals together for one reason – their careers were never quite the same following their public meltdowns and they are now forever linked to those :30 to two-minute clips.
The Jury is Still Out On
Mike Tyson
There are far too many incidents to name where Tyson’s antics have been front and center and the heavyweight division in boxing hasn’t been the same since he retired. His role in “The Hangover” was well, “nice,” and you never know what’s next with Iron Mike so we’ll stay tuned.
Allen Iverson
A.I. has had a storied career, marred with ups and downs. But one thing is certain. The 6’1″ point guard gave everything he had and left it on the floor every game. A.I. “is who he is” (Dennis Green would be proud)!  He continues to go through some pretty tough transitions in life and time will tell how the story ends. We wish him the best in whatever road he travels next.
So how do you deal with heightened emotion following a difficult loss? How do you handle cameras in your face when things don’t go well?
There are numerous strategies and techniques you can use when dealing with “heat of the moment” situations. Here are just six key tips to help quell those volcanic outbursts:
1.  Work with your communications strategist/PR person or team, and begin developing positive relationships with journalists. This is an ongoing process that begins the day you enter the arena of being a public figure. The more the media get to know who you are as a person, the less likely they are to just go after you and utterly destroy you in a story. Relationships are everything. Reporters are not “your friends” per se, as they have a job to do and that job is to report the story. But by being “media friendly” you at least give yourself a better chance to recover quickly if and when things go awry. Granted, there are some media types who despite your best efforts, are set on reporting the “negative.” And yes, there are strategies and tactics you can use to minimize the damage to your rep when things go south. Regardless of the situation, balanced stories all start with positive working relationships with the media.
2.  Give yourself a few minutes to think and cool off. Following a tough or controversial loss (or even hard fought victory) give yourself a few minutes post-game to compose yourself, think about what you want to say or how you’re going to address the controversial situation. Ask your PR person to assist by telling reporters you will be available in just a few minutes and regroup with him/them before going in front of the media. You have the right to that time.
3.  Be genuine with what you choose to say.
When you are angry or a reporter gets under your skin, before you respond, ask yourself two questions:
a. “How do I want to look tonight/tomorrow in the news?”
b.  ”Is it worth it to say everything I feel, blow up, get it off my chest, blast the officials/players/fans/etc., while I’m in the heat of the moment or is it better to channel that anger and remain composed?”
You don’t want to look or sound like a robot so know it is okay to show emotion. But remember, what you say and how you say it can cost you in fines, lost sponsorships, and reputation damage.
4.  Always remember the big picture and don’t get caught up in the moment.
If you do, remember to address it and deal with it the next day, but don’t dwell on it. Reflect on your actions, own the behavior, and move on.
5.  Breathe, relax, stop, think. Then speak. Be clear, keep your head up, and look reporters in the eye.
6.  If necessary, think about working with a sports psychologist.
If there are deeper issues at play, even the best communications/PR person can only help you to a point. Think about enlisting the help of a sports psychologist to devise strategies for dealing with how you process and redirect the frustration and negative energy.
Look we get it. We’re former athletes and journalists ourselves. We know what it is to be in these unenviable positions. But as strategic communications experts, our job is to help you help yourself by teaching you how to avoid damaging your reputation and your livelihood.   The cost is far too great, so the consider the aforementioned options.
They may just save you from going from a top public figure to public enemy number one.