Archives Ramsey Poston

When the boss is accused of sexual harassment companies must be prepared to take quick action

Any smart company already has a crisis communications plan in place. Corporate crisis plans, however, tend to rely on how to best manage external threats to the company and potential operations flaws that put the company in legal jeopardy. Few companies have serious plans on how to manage potentially destructive behavior by its executives and board members.  That must change.

Moving forward individuals and companies should assume that any allegation of sexual misconduct will become public. The media are dedicating resources to coverage of  allegations against high profile business leaders and the public is consuming the content and taking action against companies and its leaders guilty of wrongdoing.

Companies that are slow to take action against executive wrongdoing will suffer damage to their reputation, loss of revenue, and potentially complete implosion of operations. As such, now is the time for companies to establish better protocols for how to identify and take action if and when serious allegations are raised — whether they occurred in the workplace or not.

There has already been a lot written about steps to be taken from a Human Resources perspective including a recent article published by the Society for Human Resource Management titled “Workplace Sexual Harassment: Me Too or Not Us?”  The article, written by Christina M. Reger, Esq. and Robyn Forman Pollack, Esq. provide wise guidance to employers:

“Ignoring claims, whispers, or “open secrets” about bullying, sexual harassment and other predatory conduct will (not may) have severe ramifications for any company. In addition to legal and financial consequences, dismissing or even discounting employee complaints will have a domino effect inside an organization:

  1. “It sends a message of unacceptable behavior which permeates the organization’s culture.
  2. “It rewards the wrong individual and legitimizes the conduct, while simultaneously further stigmatizing the victim.
  3. “It can have a disastrous effect on the future sustainability of the company once exposed.”

So, what happens when a chief executive accused of sexual harassment becomes public?  How should companies communicate about it and to whom? The remainder of this article focuses on how companies should proceed from a communications perspective when faced with sexual harassment allegations that become public.

Scenario

Let’s consider a scenario where a company learns of a sexual harassment suit against its chief executive from an online news report. The report claims the CEO is being sued for making unwanted sexual advances to an employee in exchange for a promotion. Social media is lighting up about the allegations, employees are talking, calls are coming in from the media, board members are asking questions and customers are judging.

Immediate steps

Once a threat is lodged against an executive or the company, the crisis protocol should be launched. It will be important to be in agreement for steps that need to be taken in the first hour and within the first 24 hours.  These decisions will largely be driven by several factors including:

  • What are the facts?
  • Is the allegation credible?
  • Who needs to be informed of the allegation?
  • Is the story being accurately reported?
  • What are the next steps?

Initial Action

Companies have options of which steps to take depending on the facts, which include dismissal or suspension of the executive, or full on defense of the executive. The given action will depend on what the company leaders learn following an initial inquiry and investigation into the matter (which obviously must include an interview of the accused).

For the purposes of this article let’s assume the executive claims no wrongdoing and the facts are circumstantial at best.  

Designated spokesperson

As part of the crisis protocol there should be a designated media spokesperson who will serve as the face of the company during a crisis. Most of the time this should be the VP Communications, which can ensure the company is responsive to the claims and positively represent the company.  For internal communications it makes sense to follow normal company policy as long as the message is consistent. For example, if HR normally communicates with employees then it should continue to do so in unison with the VP communications.

Company statement

Meanwhile, rumors are spreading like wildfire on social media; reporters and others are waiting for answers.  Something has to be done and quick to manage the message. A prepared company will have a “standby statement” on the ready, update it and distribute upon request and as needed on social media.  

It’s important to say that “no comment” is a terrible response.  It sends a message that the company is on the defense and the executive is most likely guilty.  Second, it surrenders any opportunity to shape the narrative. So, take the opportunity to make a well constructed and thoughtful statement.

The initial statement should do three things.  First, it should acknowledge the allegation(s) and that the company is actively engaged in getting the facts. Further, the company should use language that recognizes the seriousness of sexual harassment and repeat company policy that it has a zero tolerance for any such conduct regardless of title or position in the company. The third element of the initial statement should be to let your audiences know that updates will be provided as necessary.  In no instance at this stage of the process should a spokesperson speculate or discuss any of the allegations.

This may seem pretty bland to many (especially those audiences who want a head on a platter), but it allows the company to be responsive and engage in the dialogue.  It also buys the company some time to better understand the facts and what the company is truly facing.

Social media channels must be monitored regularly for false information and the gauge reaction to news and statements.  Obviously, the same message shared with traditional media should be shared on the social media platform.

As said above, consistent messaging should be sent to employees and other key stakeholders from normal channels of communications.  Employees should be reminded to be careful about what, if anything, they say about the matter, and certainly not to speculate.

Finally, any and all communications must be coordinated with the legal team and approved by the crisis team.

After the first 24 hours

Following the initial company statement there should not be any back and forth with media and others.  The company statement should stand on its own as long as nothing about the matter materially changes. Media and social media should be monitored for information and misinformation.

Reputation Management

Skipping ahead to the final action, the company will want to be prepared to communicate about moving forward.  Whether the executive is exonerated or found guilty, there will be reputation work to do.

If the executive is dismissed from the company, it will be important to reassure key audiences that the company takes the issue seriously and has taken steps to try to prevent it happening in the future.  The company should develop specific steps with regard to how it will do a better job to create a better workplace and it should be communicated broadly to key stakeholders.

If the executive is exonerated, it is still worth restating the importance of safe work environments and the corporate policy on sexual harassment and how issues can be reported  

The tolerance for sexual harassment has finally reached a tipping point.  Victims are being heard and the media is exposing wrongdoing on the part of powerful people.  These are ultimately positive steps for businesses and the people who work in them. As the allegations are taken seriously and reported by the media companies must be prepared to act quick and take positive action.

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Is this “on the record?” A guide for executive interviews.

http://info.tuckahoestrategies.com/blog/is-this-on-the-record-a-guide-for-executive-interviews

Business executives are often pressed into service to speak to reporters about high stakes business issues. This can be part of a sound strategy to set the record straight and communicate with primary audiences. After all, the chief executive is where the buck stops and often a company’s most credible voice. However, it’s a dangerous proposition if the executive doesn’t understand the ground rules of the media road.

The ground rules are often the most talked about part of our media training sessions. Before engaging any reporter the executive must understand the difference between “on the record” and “off the record” and everything in between. Here’s a rundown of the ground rules for speaking with reporters.

Is this on the record?

On the record – Everything said to a reporter is just that, “on the record.”  The reporter is free to report everything said with direct attribution to the executive spokesperson. This is the most desired situation for the reporter because he or she can substantiate their reporting with direct quotes. Additionally, most editors and publishers are demanding on record quotes because they make a far more credible news stories. In this day of so called “fake news,” the media are fighting to protect their authority as a trusted source of news resulting in greater transparency.

Off the record – None of what is said can be used in anyway in any news story by the reporter. Reporters hate “off the record” because what is said to them is pretty much useless. There are a couple points that all interviewees must be aware of before attempting an “off the record” discussion with a reporter. First, and this is vitally important, “off the record” cannot be claimed retroactively. This is a classic mistake. The spokesperson, while engaged in an interview, provides a great deal of information and then says, “…but that is off the record.”  Nope. “Off the record” must be established and agreed to by the reporter in advance of what is said.

The other aspect of “off the record” is that while the reporter cannot print/broadcast the information, there is nothing stopping the reporter from getting a different source to put the same information “on the record.”  So, proceed with caution. We regularly advise clients, “If you don’t want it reported, don’t say it.” In other words, it’s usually best to avoid “off the record.”

On background – Everything said to a reporter can be reported, but there is no direct attribution to the spokesperson. Spokespeople often choose to go “on background” because they might not be authorized to speak on the record or for other reasons wants to shield the source of the comments. Quotes “on background” can easily be recognized in stories that include quotes from unnamed sources. For example, you might see something like this in a news story: “The president was very upset about coverage in the mainstream media,’ said a White House source.” This quote is attributed to an unnamed source but the reporter tells you he or she works in the White House, which would suggest the person has direct knowledge of what the president said. There are different levels of attribution. Reporters, and their editors, want to describe the source as specifically as possible. Attribution such as “a White House source” is pretty vague, while “…according to ‘a member of the president’s cabinet,” is much more specific.  Attribution is also something that must be clarified and agreed to by the reporter before the interview starts.

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Deep background – Is the same as “on background” except for attribution cannot connect the source in anyway to the story.  Again, deep background must first be agreed to by the reporter. Whereas “on background” the reporter might attribute a quote to a “White House source.”  Under the rules of “deep background” the reporter can only say something like, “…according to a source familiar with the situation.” The farther away attribution gets from the name of the source the less compelling news stories received by the reading public, which makes editors loath to use sources on “deep background.”

50 Cent and SMS Audio Join Swan Racing as Sponsor

50 Cent and SMS Audio Join Swan Racing as Sponsor
SMS Audio to support No. 26 and No. 30 in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

SMS Swan CARPHONES 699(Statesville, North Carolina – Jan. 28, 2014) – Swan Racing (www.swanracingteam.com), a leading professional stock-car racing team, announced today that it has partnered with SMS Audio (www.SMSAudio.com) for an exclusive agreement to be an associate sponsor on the team’s No. 26 and No. 30 Toyota Camrys during the 2014 and 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series seasons. SMS Audio is an American consumer electronics manufacturer of headphones and audio products, founded by entertainer and entrepreneur Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.

“Swan Racing is very proud to partner with a growing worldwide brand like SMS Audio and to include an entrepreneur like 50 Cent as part of our team,” said team owner Brandon Davis. “The SMS Audio brand will be part of both our cars and I think our fans are going to love the product.”

50 Cent, who is a successful musical artist, entrepreneur, investor and actor serves as CEO of SMS Audio, which he founded in 2011. Created with the direct input from 50 Cent, SMS Audio has brought world-class audio products to consumers, delivering studio-mastered sound and unmatched durability and style.

“Swan Racing and its up-and-coming drivers are the perfect match for SMS Audio,” said Jackson. “They are as passionate for the sport of racing as we are for our audio products, and we’re confident that the music-loving NASCAR fan base is going to enjoy our headphones – whether at track or at home.”

The partnership will include SMS Audio branding on both the No. 26 and No. 30 car, branding on the driver’s uniforms and Swan-branded SMS Audio headphones featuring drivers Cole Whitt and Parker Kligerman. In addition, 50 will be making appearances at races throughout the season, supporting the drivers and the partnership.

Delivering a professional, studio-quality music experience, the SMS Audio line includes the STREET by 50™ and SYNC by 50™ product families. The brand offers a full range of premium headphones, earbuds and accessories, and portion of each U.S. sale of SMS Audio products – in-store or online at www.SMSaudio.com – help provide meals to food-insecure families through Feeding America.

“I am pumped up for this partnership to say the least, as I am a huge hip-hop fan, I am a huge 50 fan and I rely on headphones to get me in the right pre-race mindset,” said Parker Kligerman driver of the No. 30 Toyota Camry. “I have my headphones on anytime I am about to get on track. It’s a way for me to focus and get pumped up. This partnership is an honor.”

“Our partnership with SMS Audio shows how Swan Racing is gaining more and more attention from top brands,” said Cole Whitt driver of the No. 26 Toyota Camry. “From a personal point of view I use headphones every day when I’m doing my workouts and video gaming, so I am definitely excited about my SMS Audio headphones and promoting them to our fans.”

The business relationship and sponsorship program between SMS Audio and Swan Racing was conceived and negotiated by Pegasus Marketing Group (www.pegasusmarketing.com) of Lake Forest, Illinois’ Ralph H. Hansen, President and CEO.

For more information about Swan Racing, its drivers and schedule of races, visit www.swanracingteam.com. Information about SMS Audio and its full product line can be found at www.smsaudio.com.

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About Swan Racing: Swan Racing is a professional stock-car racing team, based in Statesville, N.C., that competes full-time in 36 nationally televised races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Swan Racing fields two teams driven by Parker Kligerman (No. 30) and Cole Whitt (No. 26). The team is owned by Swan Energy CEO Brandon Davis.

About SMS Audio, LLC: A premier audio headphone and accessories brand, SMS Audio, LLC is dedicated to improving the way people experience music. SMS Audio combines technology, function and style to deliver studio mastered sound wherever you go. A global audio headphone and accessories brand, SMS Audio is dedicated to improving the way people around the world experience music by combining technology, function and style to bring a superior level of sound, comfort and fashion to every product. Delivering a professional, studio-quality music experience, the SMS Audio line includes STREET by 50™ and SYNC by 50™. SMS Audio offers a full range of premium headphones, earbuds, and accessories designed to meet the needs of various consumer segments.

In addition to creating products that deliver on their promise, SMS Audio and its founder, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, are committed to establish conscious capitalism and help those in need. Through its partnership with Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger relief charity, SMS Audio is dedicated to helping provide 1 Million meals a year to Feeding America on behalf of local food banks. A portion of each U.S. sale of SMS Audio products, in-store or online at www.SMSaudio.com, will help provide meals to food insecure families throughout the United States. Together we can solve hunger.

Master Chef Peter Chang’s Flawless Crisis Management

In the restaurant business, reputations are made and broken with every customer interaction.  That includes how customers are treated from the moment they walk into a restaurant, the service they receive and of course the meal.  Customers judge all of it. Extreme restaurant experiences – either awesome or awful – tend to be the ones customers talk about.

Last week at Peter Chang’s Restaurant in Arlington, Va., some servers attempted to secretly ridicule customers they thought were being obnoxious.  After the meal the customers noticed on the check that the servers had identified them as “plaid asshole” and “i have a small penis.”

These customers told people about the experience.  And by people, I mean The Washington Post and suddenly the story went viral.  Peter Chang, was the head chef at the Chinese Embassy before launching his restaurant empire that now numbers seven locations in Virginia.  He is so popular among some devoted diners they call themselves “Changians.”

So, what to do when your reputation is being smeared in the Washington Post?  Take swift action. In a business where your business depends on reputation, customers must be reassured that action is being taken and steps are made to try to ensure the same mistakes are not made again.

Peter Chang took action.  He responded by firing everyone involved in the incident: two servers, the manager on duty, and his daughter who is responsible for running the restaurant.  He didn’t stop there.  He launched an investigation to understand exactly what happened; he’s hiring a professional management company to help train employees; and, he invited customers to contact him directly with complaints or criticism.

These are all excellent steps addressing the unfortunate situation and avoiding a catastrophic crisis.  The steps send the message that the customers always come first and he takes the situation (and his reputation) very seriously.  Below is the statement of apology Chang sent to the media:

Peter Chang’s Statement                                   

I sincerely apologize to the guests who were offended on 05/07/2016 when they dined at my Arlington restaurant. I am deeply disturbed by the incident. I am sorry, my respected guests. I also apologize to all my friends who have had trust in Peter Chang. We made a mistake and let you down.

We made a mistake and we must correct it. The following is what we are doing to correct and improve:

  1. My company has fired Qian Cheng, the manager on duty on 05/07, and the waiter and waitress on duty. Manager Lydia Zhang will also be fired after the investigation is completed.
  2. My company is contacting a professional management company and will have it as our consultant in improving the management of all the restaurants in my company. My goal is to enforce discipline, supervision of all employees and to better the training of services [sic] so as to build a managing team that is professional and effective, so that the quality of services will be guaranteed.
  3. My company will make greater effort in improving the food quality monitoring system so my insistence on offering fresh and healthy food with Chinese characteristics will not only be upheld but improved and perfected.
  4. We accept guests’ complaints and/or criticism wholeheartedly. Please call Gen Lee, who is one of the founders of my company, by dialing (434) 227-0006 if you are unsatisfied with any aspect of my restaurants. He will contact you quickly.

Dear guests and friends, I found dignity in being a chef due to your support and encouragement. I need more of your help in supervising my employees, so my restaurants will be nicer places for you to enjoy fine food in the future, and I will have a stage to continue to present my culinary skills.

Peter Chang

Case study: Guiding America’s Cup through rough waters

Tuckahoe Strategies represented The America’s Cup during one of its most challenging times following the death of one its sailors.  British sailor, Andrew “Bart” Simpson, was one of the world’s most decorated competitive sailors who tragically died during a training exercise in the San Francisco Bay.

tv-interview-twoTuckahoe Strategies provided crisis communications planning; message development; media relations and on-going strategic counsel.

Ramsey Poston designed and executed a full DC/NYC media tour in order to give the America’s Cup leadership the opportunity to discuss the importance of safety and the steps it had implemented to ensure the safety of its competitors.  The media tour included visits to USA Today, New York Times, Bloomberg, and CNBC.

america-cup0002Mr. Poston worked directly with the America’s Cup leadership to positively change the narrative. He personally facilitated Message Summit in which the organization’s key players participated in a daylong strategic discussion of its strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. The Message Development sessions produced a working strategic roadmap that has helped to deliver messages by credible spokespeople to positively re-position the event.

Wendell Scott enters NASCAR HOF for more than one reason

When Wendell Scott’s NASCAR career is discussed it is inevitably said that he had one win, and with that one win at Jacksonville in 1963 he became the first African American driver to win a NASCAR race. Wrong. Wendell Scott won at least 128 races at local tracks long before he started his premier series (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) career. Scott wasn’t just the “black driver with a win.” He was a champion and a fierce competitor who earned the respect of his fellow drivers.

wendell scott v2Based upon the strength of his lifetime stats, Scott will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday, January 30, along with other NASCAR greats Bill Elliott, Fred Lorenzen, Joe Weatherly, and Rex White.

Perhaps the most remarkable fact about Scott is that when he began his premier series career he was 40 years old. Scott brought along his tenacity and grit from the local tracks to big time racing. In his 13-year career he managed 495 starts, which ranks him 37th on NASCAR’s all time list. During that time, Scott amassed 147 top 10s, 20 top 5s and one win. He also won the pole at Savannah, GA, in 1962 that set the dirt track record for all ½ mile tracks.

Prior to his racing career, Scott, like many of his contemporaries, served his country in World War II in the U.S. Army. There he worked in the motor pool for three years, honing his mechanical skills, which would later serve him well in his racing career.

1271360250-NASCAR-Hall-of-Fame-Logo-Full-Color1Following the war, Scott returned home to Danville, VA, and took a job as a cab driver, thus continuing his work around cars. Soon Scott began his racing career. According to a story in the News & Advance (Lynchburg, Va.), “Scott’s racing career began at the Danville Fairgrounds in 1952 and from there, he moved his way up through the ranks. He won 128 races in the hobby, amateur, and modified ranks.”

Scott ran in both the NASCAR Sportsman Division (NASCAR Xfinity Series) as well as the Modified class, and ranked in the top 10 nationally in both. He accomplished this while racing against the likes of Ralph Earnhardt, Cotton Owens, Ned Jarrett, and Fireball Roberts.

In 1959, Scott won 22 races, besting the tough competition at tracks such as Waynesboro, Danville, Zion’s Cross, Roanoke, Tidewater, and others. He also won both the track championship at Southside Speedway in Richmond, VA, and the state NASCAR Sportsman Division championship that year.

1964, when Scott was 43 years old, was his best Cup year statistically. That year Scott started 56 races and had one win, eight top 5s and 25 top 10s. That’s a year that would make any driver proud.

As Scott earned his stripes, he became one of the guys earning respect and building friendships with fellow drivers. Richard Petty, Crew Chief Dale Inman, and others looked after Scott, providing him with parts and pieces to make sure he could compete each week.

Like many of the great teams of the time, racing was a family affair, and it was no different for the Scotts. Wendell’s family played a role back home in the shop and in the pits. Sons Wendell, Jr. and Frankie spent their time under the hood, building engines and parts during non-racing days and pitting the car on race day.

(Wendell Scott, Jr., and I have had several conversations about his dad. Some were good stories, some were not. But Wendell Jr. was always proud of how his dad was able to earn the respect of the greatest drivers in the world.)

In Scott’s racing days, restaurants were primarily “whites only” and when a proprietor attempted to throw Scott out, one of his fellow drivers would typically say, “if you are not going to serve Wendell, then you won’t be serving any of us.” And that was that – he was one of the guys.

Long before the NASCAR Hall of Fame recognized Scott, there was musician and fellow Danville native, Mojo Nixon, who wrote and recorded The Ballad of Wendell Scott. Mojo, who also hosts a weekly radio show called Manifold Destiny on Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio, forever honored the driver in the 1980s:

“No sponsors or a whole lot of money/ sure did make us proud / Wendell Wendell Wendell Scott /Drive so fast he couldn’t stop /Wendell Wendell / He’s my man / He a stock car driving man!” (Take a listen here: The Ballad of Wendell Scott)

While Scott’s win at Jacksonville was momentous, it has actually obscured many of his other accomplishments. Scott’s tough but smart driving was his hallmark, and was not unlike the driving styles of Alan Kulwicki in the 1980s and Jeff Burton in recent years.

The number of wins a driver has cannot be the standard for induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame – there are only 12 that have 50 or more premier series wins, making it a pretty small club. So the Voting Committee wisely evaluates each driver’s entire body of work and his or her overall impact on the sport. When you look at Wendell Scott’s body of work and what he still means to the sport today, he stands tall among NASCAR’s greats.

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Ramsey Poston is the architect of the NASCAR Hall of Fame nominating and voting process and is President of Tuckahoe Strategies. (www.TuckahoeStrategies.com)

Press Freedom is Essential for Democracy Worldwide

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Thomas Jefferson


It was an interesting week for press freedom.  In Paris, 12 people at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were murdered in a terrorist attack by radical Muslims.  The terrorists struck during the daily staff meeting and took the lives of the newspaper’s editor, four Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 1.51.02 PMcartoonists, an economist, a columnist, the receptionists, security guards and a visitor.
The publication is stridently irreverent and often pokes fun at anyone including Islamic leaders.  Upon leaving the scene the terrorists reportedly shouted, ‘We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad.  We have killed Charlie Hebdo!”  The motive was clear: silence the media.

Meanwhile, less than 50 miles from Washington, D.C., Kirby Delauter, a local politician in Frederick, Maryland threatened reporter Bethany Rodgers with a lawsuit if she used his name in her newspaper without authorization.  In a Facebook exchange, Councilman Delauter accused Rodgers of writing a “hit piece.”  He concluded by writing, “Use my name again unauthorized and you’ll be paying for an Attorney.  Your rights stop where mine start.”  Mr. Delauter’s motive was clear: silence the media.

The Charlie Hebdo massacre was tragic and part of a global threat while the Delauter situation was stupid and comical.  Let’s be clear, there is no comparison between the two scenarios — except for one: the attempt to silence the media.  It is a reminder that even here in the United States, the “land of the free,” that press freedom is occasionally seen as a nuisance and often challenged.

Press freedom is the basis of Democracy.  We cannot have one without the other.  The expression of facts, ideas, and opinions are the ingredients of a free people.  Local reporters such as Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post play an especially important role.  They are the people who are keeping local government in check.  They are the ones taking the time to sit through boring county council meetings when no one else is looking.  They churn through mountains of legal filings and keep a check upon what is happening at the courthouse.  The service that journalists provide are as important as the leaders we elect.

They are also endangered.  As media budgets plummet, the idea of being a journalist has become less and less appealing to the younger generation.  It’s hard work, long hours and little pay.   Journalists are also increasingly in the line of fire.  The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 1,109 journalists have been murdered since 1992. These journalists put their lives on the line for our democracy.

We won’t always agree with what is being reported in the media.  Reporters make mistakes, they get the facts wrong, they sometimes intentionally embellish and sometimes they flat out lie.  It’s the same as with any industry, its not perfect. However, overall, the media strive to do what is right and protect democracies.  All of us living in democracies around the world need to do our part to support the media and let freedom ring.

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Ramsey Poston is president of Tuckahoe Strategies, a strategic communications firm based on the Eastern Shore.

New York Times: Ramsey Poston comments on Kurt Busch Allegations

Nascar’s Kurt Busch Is Focus of Domestic Assault Inquiry

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(online version can be found at: New York Times )

Add Nascar to the list of sports organizations now having to manage domestic violence accusations against one of their stars. The police in Dover, Del., released a statement Friday saying that Kurt Busch, the 2004 Cup champion and the driver of the No. 41 Chevrolet for the high-profile Stewart-Haas Racing team, was under investigation on suspicion of domestic assault.

The Associated Press reported that the accusation had been made by Patricia Driscoll, the president of the Armed Forces Foundation in Washington, D.C., and a former girlfriend of Busch’s, and that the episode had taken place Sept. 26 in Busch’s motor home before a race at Dover International Speedway. The police indicated that the accusation had been made Wednesday.
Busch, who is in Avondale, Ariz., preparing for a Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, denied the charge through a lawyer, Rusty Hardin.
“This allegation is a complete fabrication by a woman who has refused to accept the end of a relationship, and Mr. Busch vehemently denies her allegations in every respect,” Hardin said in a statement.
Busch participated in practice at the Phoenix racetrack on Friday. Spokesmen for Nascar and Stewart-Haas Racing both wrote that they were gathering facts and had no further comment.
That is standard procedure for Nascar. The Cup driver Travis Kvapil was arrested on charges of assaulting his wife in October 2013 and never faced a suspension, even after The Sporting News reported that he had pleaded guilty and had been sentenced to probation and community service.
Nascar’s reaction is in contrast to other sports leagues, which have removed athletes from competition while they were involved in domestic violence investigations and before legal proceedings were complete.
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who reached a plea deal after assaulting his fiancée earlier this year, was suspended indefinitely after video of the episode became public. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy have been placed on the N.F.L. exempt list while legal proceedings continue in their domestic violence cases. They are being paid but are not allowed to compete.
Defenseman Slava Voynov of the N.H.L.’s Los Angeles Kings was suspended indefinitely after he was arrested last month on domestic assault charges.
Ramsey Poston, a former managing director of communications for Nascar who helped the organization with crisis management after the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001, said: “It used to be that sports leagues, when there was an issue, would let law enforcement fully investigate an issue and then, based on that, take appropriate action. In the post-Ray Rice world, I don’t think sports leagues have that luxury anymore.
“Obviously it is far, far too early to begin to speculate about what might have happened,” Poston added. “I can’t see a basis for them to take any action, especially take him off the track. However, Nascar should be asking questions and potentially conducting their own investigation.”
Busch is the second high-profile driver at Stewart-Haas Racing who has faced a criminal investigation in recent months. Tony Stewart, Busch’s boss and an owner of the team, was investigated in Ontario County, N.Y., over his involvement in the death of the sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. during a race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Aug. 9.
Ward had left his racecar after a crash to confront Stewart on the track and was fatally hit by Stewart’s car. Stewart was not charged in the death.
Busch has a long history of confrontations with drivers and members of the news media, on and off the track.
He was suspended for two races by one former team, Roush Racing, in 2005 after an arrest on charges of reckless driving before a race at Phoenix. He lost his job at Penske Racing in 2011 after a verbal confrontation with a broadcaster. After threatening a reporter at Dover in 2012, Busch was suspended by Nascar.
Relegated to driving for smaller, less competitive teams for two years in part because of his volatility, Busch is in his first season at Stewart-Haas Racing. He made the 16-driver field for the playoff but was eliminated in the first round.
The playoff has prompted a series of postrace fights among drivers in contention, including a melee last week at Texas Motor Speedway. Nascar has not penalized drivers for fighting, and the confrontations have brought greater attention to the sport.
The accusation against Busch comes at a time when Nascar is trying to promote its playoff.
The Phoenix race will cut the field of drivers in the championship chase to four from eight heading into the Nov. 16 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Bill Cosby Treading Water in Rape Allegations

Bill Cosby copy

[UPDATED – July 6, 2015 – According to the Associated Press, “Bill Cosby testified in 2005 that he got Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to young women he wanted to have sex with, and he admitted giving the sedative to at least one woman and ‘other people.”]

One of Cosby’s classic stories is a conversation between Noah and God regarding the construction of an ark in anticipation of the Bible’s apocalyptic flood. In Cosby’s version of the story, Noah becomes very frustrated with the process. Noah says to God, “Well, I’m sick and tired of this, I’ve had enough of this stuff.” God, replies, “How long can you tread water?”  With this testimony coming to light, Cosby sinks a little deeper.

Whether Bill Cosby is innocent or guilty of rape allegations, his “no comment” strategy is a major PR mistake and will cost him in the court of public opinion and perhaps in judicial courts. At a minimum, Cosby has been less than forthright when asked about his behavior.

The comedic icon has been dogged for years by allegations that he raped multiple women. At least one woman filed suit that was eventually settled out of court. Another woman, Barbara Bowman, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post where she claims Cosby “brainwashed” her and assaulter her “multiple times.”

NPR’s Scott Simon asked Cosby about the claims and Cosby said nothing. Literally nothing. Simon ask the comedian three times if he wanted to clear his name and set the record straight and each time Cosby remained silent.

In virtually any crisis situation, “no comment” essentially translates into “I’m guilty.” Traditionally, lawyers tend to believe the best strategy is to just wait until their day in court. That strategy was perhaps more effective pre-Internet when information was constrained to major media establishments and a handful of opinion makers. Today, when it comes to one’s reputation, we all live in the digital world and power is diffused throughout the Internet. The old media establishment and the 24 news cycle are long gone. Individuals and bloggers have credibility and can shape images in real time.

Those facing crisis situations need to adapt to the digital world and manage their reputations on the front end. The risk of a “no comment” strategy is that by the time one gets to court there may be nothing left to defend.

Cosby is embarking on a major concert tour, billed as, “Laughter is universal – Bill Cosby – Far from finished” that will cover nearly 40 shows nationwide. He will also perform in his first television concert in 30 years to be broadcast Nov. 23 on Comedy Central.

Cosby’s silence will not deter media in locals markets from continuing to raise questions about the rape allegations. Nor will his silence likely slow down his accusers; why would it? As long as Cosby remains silent, his accusers repeatedly get “free shots” and by default, they control the message.

While Cosby’s accusers remain on the attack, his reputation continues be diminished and the accusations threaten to derail his “far from finished” tour and perhaps his entire career. If their message continues to resonate, it won’t be long before Cosby’s entire career is defined as being a rapist instead of the lovable comedian he is known as by millions of people worldwide.

As this crisis rages on, the Cosby camp needs to also consider the costs to his business. How much more negative attention will it take before Comedy Central, the network of conscientious Jon Stewart, has to rethink its Bill Cosby special? What will be the environment at his concerts? Will activist groups protest his shows? Will ticket sales suffer?

Bill Cosby needs to take control of his message, whether he is innocent or guilty. If he is innocent, it is important that he look the American people in the eye and proclaim his innocence. He needs to be public in his defense and tell his story far and wide and he must be willing to take questions and be prepared to respond with details. In fact, he should find a respected national television show to present his side of the story – perhaps 60 Minutes or The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

If he is guilty, the best thing he can do is to come clean. He needs to address the allegations and tell the American people what happened and why. While doing so would put Cosby in the crosshairs of controversy, he’s already there, so it would be his best shot at a new beginning. He would have to admit it all, ask for forgiveness and then try to rehabilitate his life and his reputation.

Remaining on the sidelines is a mistake. One way or another he should speak up and tell his story.

In his real life story, Cosby is the one treading water. He needs to build that ark and get to solid ground.

Dan Snyder vs. Public Opinion and Justice

Growing up in Washington, D.C. in the 1970s and ‘80s I always wanted to be an“Indian” when it came time to play “Cowboys and Indians.”  The Indians in my mind were an extension of my favorite football team, The Washington Redskins. This was a great source of pride for me and one that gave me what I thought was an important connection to Native Americans, even though the team’s connection was superficial at best.

Every few years the issue of whether the Redskins’ name is racist would surface(usually when the team was headed to a Super Bowl). Occasionally I would meetNative Americans and ask them about the name. Typically, they said they took no offense to the name and even supported the team. I took solace in the fact that some Native Americans supported the team. The controversy would just as quickly evaporate and everyone seemed to move on.

This time it’s different.The team is quickly headed to a tipping point in which a name change is imminent.

So what is different this time around? Arrogance. Team owner Daniel Snyder challenged the public’s awareness and opened the door for a more complete discussion about the name when he told USA Today in an interview, “We’ll never change the name…it’s that simple. NEVER.” For emphasis, he then said to the reporter: “You can use caps.”

Abraham Lincoln once said, “public opinion, though often formed upon a wrong basis, generally has a strong underlying sense of justice.” It is now clear that the public, along with much of the Native American community, accepted Snyder’s challenge and public opinion has shifted in the name of justice.

Public opinion, followed by business reasons, has forced the team to change in thepast and it’s going to happen again. The team’s fight song, “Hail to the Redskins” hasbeen revised at least twice. The original lyrics to the song included a reference to“scalp ‘em” revised to “beat ‘em.” One version of the song made reference to the“Sons of old Dixie” which was changed to “Sons of old DC.” If “scalp ‘em” was deemed offensive and references to “Dixie” too controversial in the 1960s, then changing the name in 2014 is the logical next step.

The recent U.S. Patent & Trademark Office decision to cancel six Washington Redskins trademarks, calling the team name “disparaging to Native Americans,” may add further weight to tip the balance of public opinion. The action, which is now being appealed by the team, does not have the force of law. One patent and trademark expert who works in the sports industry told me that, “the loss of federal registration does not prevent the team from using its common law rights or state registration as a tool to enforce against infringers.” That source said, “I don’t think the organization will be affected by this unless it wants to change.”

Indeed, the decision could be used as a way out of the growing public opinion opposition for Snyder. It is the opinion of some sports insiders that Snyder has come to the realization that the change is inevitable and now he’s in position to leverage the NFL for greater concessions in return for ending the controversy.

One would hope that the NFL would not give an inch in return for Snyder doing the right thing, but make no mistake, Snyder will look for opportunities find a way to capitalize even in defeat.

A rebranding of the franchise could actually mean millions of new dollars of revenue forthe team. A new name and a new logo means new merchandise and it’s a good bet that the team’s fans, some of the most loyal in all sports, will not only clear out all remaining Redskins merchandise but the new items as well.

It remains to be seen whether a name change will maintain a connection to Native Americans going forward. If it does, the team should build a meaningful relationship between the Native American community and its fan base that provides some level of education about those who lived on this land first.

Sports can be used to better society. It can teach us about hard work, fair play, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. AND it can educate us about our progress as a society. Perhaps if the team maintains the connection to Native Americans,there might be more kids who want to be the “Indian.”

But there must first be change, which will only come as a result of the public’s insistence. Lincoln went on to say, “public opinion in this country is everything.”


Ramsey Poston is a crisis communications expert and president of Tuckahoe Strategies, a strategic communications firm.