49’ers PR gaffe condemns ‘jock’ culture as well as bad PR, says PR disaster expert

June 04, 2005 (PRLEAP.COM) Sports News
PR analyst Gerry McCusker, author of the world’s first compendium of PR disasters, believes the PR scandal engulfing the San Francisco 49’ers, says as much about the mentality of our so-called sports heroes as it does of the PROs who advise them.

McCusker, a sports PR specialist, came to this conclusion after viewing the questionable video clips and deducing that the team’s disgraced PR Director, Kirk Reynolds, used lowbrow racist and sexist humour, erotic titillation and loutish behaviour just to ensure that he got the players’ attention and made his message.

From an effective public speaking or communications viewpoint, McCusker says that, theoretically, Reynolds was spot on: He spoke to his audience in a language they’d be sure to understand. The players got the message, but their silence tells another story.

McCusker commented:
“If the players saw this in August 2004, why was it June 2005 before someone found it offensive enough to leak to the media? It seems that in many ‘jock’-dominated sports, racism, sexism and bad behaviour are alive and full of potential for bad PR”.

From a professional PR viewpoint, McCusker says that Reynolds made several poor judgement calls including:

He failed to consider those who could be offended if they saw it: Or, those who might use the video against him or the club, in a ‘political’ way.

He failed to assess the impact on the 49’ers brand, not just the player pool.

Taste test:
Off-colour humour should never be used, even to get a point across. And what true PR professional would strip off and appear in a client training video?

McCusker believes that, in an ironic way, the global media and public outrage has helped Reynolds achieve and surpass his original goal for his ‘handling the media’ training video. The team now surely know that bad behaviours and prejudices are unacceptable in San Fran’s diverse community, and also in a global multicultural society.


Book details: ‘Talespin PR Disasters’, Kogan Page (2005), available online or in good bookstores.