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After Donald Sterling’s Apology Turns Sour, Clippers and Magic Johnson Take High Road


May 14, 2014

[ap wide world photos]
[ap wide world photos]

Donald Sterling’s interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday night was a study in damage control gone wrong, according to The Washington Post. The billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers began by apologizing and asking forgiveness for racist remarks that he had made in private but were recorded — slurs that resulted in the NBA banning him. But Sterling’s attempt at image repair soon worsened the morass, as he made insensitive remarks about African Americans’ philanthropy and criticized basketball icon Magic Johnson.

In response, Johnson, along with Clippers Coach Doc Rivers and the team’s interim CEO Dick Parsons, were “models of restraint,” the Post wrote, which is “exactly what’s needed when a crisis has the potential to distract both players and fans.”

Rivers defended Johnson and said Sterling’s comments didn’t sound like much of an apology. Parsons was similarly evenhanded and emphasized the positive, saying, “I’m here to help turn one of the burners off under the pot, not to turn it up higher. So I think I’ll keep my personal views personal and just stay focused on what are we going to do to keep this team on the ascent as it is right now.” And in a Twitter message, Johnson wrote, “I’d rather be talking about these great NBA playoffs than Donald Sterling’s interview.” — Greg Beaubien
 



Comments

N. Darlene Womack, APR says:

I agree that this is a damage control case gone wrong. He needs to realize that what he says/does today impacts tomorrow. Following the basic rules of crisis communications management would have proven beneficial...hope his public relations counsel refers to it. http://womackblog.wordpress.com/

May 15, 2014

N. Darlene Womack, APR says:

We all know that crises distract from normal operations. When a crisis develops, the response from the organization or person can either worsen the situation or help minimize the damage. In this case, after Sterling's racist remarks, the NBA promptly responded with severe penalties before Sterling even issued an apology. The NBA sought to calm the situation by hiring an African American interim CEO who happens to be an attorney. While the NBA took steps to calm the situation, Sterling sought to incite the situation. Sterling compounded the problem with insults directed at Magic Johnson, which could have created another crisis. Fortunately, Magic Johnson’s response simmered the situation, practically dismissing Sterling’s negative outbursts. It is quite obvious of who had and followed a crisis communications management plan. Sterling’s knee-jerk reaction typically showed he had none or chose to ignore it. He had not even apologized until days later. This emphasizes the rationale for having a crisis plan in place. An apology should have been Sterling’s first response, but it wasn’t. His delayed apology affected perceptions. When he finally delivered it, the apology was considered among stakeholders as insincere and half-hearted. Perhaps he was distracted. Nonetheless, having a crisis plan allows organizations to continue focusing on achieving the overall goals of the company, while communications/PR professionals help to implement the plan to minimize distractions. In this case, as you repeated what Parsons said, “I’d rather be talking about these great NBA playoffs than Donald Sterling’s interview.”

May 16, 2014

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