This post is later than planned. Last week I wanted to write about the whole Ryan Braun mess but as each new development came and went, and as the media piled on, I wasn’t sure if there was much left to say. Then another athlete caught my attention. So here’s a post about public relations …
First, I have no idea if the National League MVP took performance-enhancing drugs and neither do you. Unless Braun someday confesses, and that would seem doubtful, it appears we will never know for certain what happened. What I do know is that early last week Braun was winning the so-called “PR War.” It you haven’t seen it, take a look at Braun's statement from February 24.
Braun was straightforward and AUTHENTIC. You could hear it in his voice and see it on his face. His actions were consistent with everything else we thought we knew about him and he showed us he wasn’t afraid to face the media and take whatever questions reporters were prepared to ask. (Admittedly, the questions could have been tougher.)
Because I’m a Brewers fan, I wanted to believe that the favorable ruling by the arbitrator and the forthrightness from Braun would put an end to the sorry saga that was never supposed to have been made public in the first place. By midweek that was a pipe dream.
There was the statement from Braun’s “sample collector.” That defense was predictable enough and perhaps even warranted, considering that the sample collector’s identity was revealed just hours after Braun raised questions about his behavior. But Dino Laurenzi Jr. did not face the media. Instead he chose to issue a written statement and the statement ended with the sentence, “Any future inquiries should be directed to my attorney Boyd Johnson of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.” It wasn’t a very good public relations effort for someone trying to clear his name and it was irrefutable evidence that Laurenzi was hiding behind lawyers who were calling the shots. (Note to people seeking public relations guidance: You won’t find it in a law office.)
But then, Braun’s lawyer went public. Even though the words of the written statement were measured, David Cornwall managed to undo what Braun had so eloquently done a few days earlier. By labeling Laurenzi’s statement “inappropriate” and inferring that the only people who would believe it are dim, Cornwall stepped right off the high road and into the gutter.
It shouldn’t have happened. Braun had already stated his case masterfully. That Laurenzi (or MLB?) felt the need to fight back does not mean Braun’s side needed to have the last word. The last-word game should be reserved for adolescents and in this instance the result is that Braun is also appearing to hide behind a lawyer. (Later, Laurenzi’s attorney, Boyd Johnson III, won a small battle in the PR War by refusing to comment on Cornwall’s statement.)
All in all, it was an interesting exchange to watch and, honestly, I was a little sad to see it drag on. Barring new information, Braun would be well-advised to not comment further and to let his athleticism do the talking from here.
On a brighter note, I just love what AJ Hawk did. Famous for the blond tresses that poke out from under his helmet on game day, the Packers linebacker cut his hair a couple of days ago so the hair can be made into wigs for kids in chemotherapy. AJ's started a group called "Hawk's Locks For Kids." It’s authentic, positive PR. Might another teammate be next?