PR in Sports

Looking at the World of Sports from a PR Perspecitve

Pitino Owning Extortion Story

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Rick Pitino's PR risk is paying off in exortion story

Rick Pitino's PR risk is paying off in exortion story

Saturday night University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino issued a press release through the schools athletic office indicating that the FBI is currently investigating attempted extortion against him. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Pitino is accusing the estranged wife of Louisville’s equipment manager, Karen Sypher, as threatening him as part of a scheme to extort money.

Extortion is a serious criminal matter, and hopefully the issue gets resolved quickly. But from a PR perspective, did Rick Pitino and his team make the correct move by issuing their statement out in front of this story hitting the media?

According to reports Sypher did an interview with Candyce Clifft of WDRB-Fox 41 in Louisville, but the Fox affiliate chose not to air the story because they could not corroborate Sypher’s claims. I’m going to assume that Pitino and his team found out about the interview and made the decision to beat Sypher to the media. They most likely were not aware that the story had been held by WDRB.

In most situations this strategy has the potential to make an issue public that might have never seen the light of day, but let’s face it, Rick Pitino is one of the most famous coaches in basketball today. This story would have gotten to the media at some point.

But, by beating Sypher to the punch, Pitino’s risk has paid off. He has shaped and framed this story in his favor. Nearly every media outlet in the country has covered this in some way, and in nearly every story it frames Pitino as being the victim targeted by an “estranged” wife. Granted something must have gone down in order for Sypher to attempt to extort Pitino, but few outlets have even reported on that aspect.

In Pitino’s original statement he declined to name Sypher as the woman who is attempting to extort him, most likely in order to protect Karen Sypher’s husband Tim and their children. Sunday Karen Sypher’s name did become public, but once again the Pitino team made a smart move. They issued another statement from the Louisville Athletic Department, this time from Tim Sypher defending Rick Pitino.

In the end the risk was making a potentially damaging story public that might not have reached the public. That really is a huge risk for someone whose profession is not only to coach basketball games, but to go into the living room of high school kids and convince their parents that he can be responsible for their children at the next level.

But, by beating Sypher to the media, Pitino has managed to take control of the story with his message from his point of view. Pitino secured backing from his school’s President and Athletic Director, as well as the husband of the woman attempting to extort him. He has also framed Karen Sypher as a crazy “estranged” wife and mother.

It was certainly a risky move by the Pitino camp, but to this point Pitino has owned this story.

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Written by Brian Gleason

April 20, 2009 at 10:39 pm

2 Responses

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  1. The University of Louisville should be ASHAMED of their head basketball coach and should have their head examined for backing their coach on his extramarital affair. There are rumors of affairs.. gay affairs.. Point shaving.. I mean what parent wants their child to go to a school who has this cloud over them with the backing of the AD? To me it is a very distasteful move on UofLs part.

    RossKYcats

    May 25, 2009 at 12:22 pm

  2. University of California Rive Throw PillowClock Tower at the University of California at Riverside pillow.

    university of michigan

    April 4, 2010 at 10:28 am


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