PR in Sports

Looking at the World of Sports from a PR Perspecitve

Clemens Interview a PR Mistake

with 3 comments

Roger_ClemensRoger Clemens is back in the news folks! That’s right, “The Rocket” finally came out of the woodwork Tuesday morning, giving his first interview in nearly a year. Clemens appeared on Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio, and in typical fashion, talked a lot but said nothing.

Clemens spent the interview denying steroid use and defending himself against a new New York Daily News book. American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America’s Pastime was released Tuesday and recounts the news that has seen Clemens go from sure fire Hall-of-Famer, to disgraced.

Which brings us to the mystery of the interview. Very few people were even even aware the book was coming out. Michael Wilbon, from Los Angeles on Tuesday’s PTI, mentioned he was at the Houston Rockets shoot-around prior to Game 5 of their series with the Lakers, and media from Clemens hometown had not even heard of the book.

So why appear on Mike and Mike? Clemens had nothing new to say, and actually drew attention to a book that had little momentum. But, what most analysts seemed to miss, was that Clemens did say some things. He did get his message across. He just did it about an hour before his interview.

At about 7:30 a.m. Gene Grabowski, Clemens new PR rep, appeared on Mike and Mike. Grabowski’s interview was definitely interesting, because as mentioned Clemens later said nothing, but I do question Mike and Mike on having Clemens PR person on to set up his own interview. It might have been better to have an impartial PR pro on to breakdown what Clemens needed to do in his interview.

Regardless, Grabowski is a leading and respected crisis communications professional, and he swung for the fences when Clemens was unable too. Grabowski continually referred to Brian McNamee, Clemens’ accuser, as simply “an admitted drug dealer”, and the authors of the new Clemens book as “tabloid reporters”.

Most interesting was Grabowski’s recount of looking Clemens straight in the eye before bringing him on as a client. This definitely brought back images of the famous “What you do have is my whole word, and it’s stronger than oak” line from Jerry McGuire, and we all know how that turned out. Grabowski repeatedly asked the public not rush to judgment and to wait for Clemens to tell his side of the story. He pleaded “innocent until proven guilty”, painting Clemens as a wrongly accused celebrity.

But, from a PR perspective, we’re all left wondering, why set up the interview in the first place if Clemens himself had nothing new to say? There’s got to be a larger plan from Grabowski, right?…Right?

Grabowski did do his job during his segment, getting Clemens’ message out, but many seemed to miss his interview altogether. In the end, this entire thing seemed to be a colossal disaster for Clemens and Grabowski. The overall strategy seemed to be ‘Hey we’re Roger’s new PR firm and we have to recommend something, he can’t do nothing’, when that’s exactly what Clemens should have continued doing.

Why not let Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez continue to steal the steroid headlines? Now everyone knows about the new York Daily News book, which Grabowski admitted in his interview brings no new information or accusations against Clemens, and public sentiment towards Clemens might be at an all-time low, if that’s possible. I guess we’ll have to wait for another shoe to drop if this episode is going to prove to be a smart move.

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Written by Brian Gleason

May 13, 2009 at 11:09 pm

3 Responses

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  1. I wasn’t aware of grabowski’s interview. The obvious reason is that no one cares about who he is, only who roger clemens in. The timing is odd and they didn’t seem to accomplish a whole lot. Perhaps their strategy is the old, if you repeat something often and loud enough people will begin to believe you. not sure what this accomplished for clemens.

    Poppa Burgundy

    May 14, 2009 at 8:50 am

  2. This is very interesting. Regardless of the situation, Clemens has proven, along with his idiot attorney Rusty, that he is his own worst enemy. Has Clemens ever been interviewed on anything and come up with responses that helped his cause? He is incapable of telling the truth or being articulate with meaningful spin. Best to keep Clemens unavailable to anyone without a subpoena. I mean, isn’t that what a spokesman/crisis comm. guru is for in the first place?


    May 14, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    • Exactly Jeff, that’s why I’m surprised that someone as experienced and seemingly respected as Gene Grabowski went with this strategy. Seems to me, this is either a time to keep Clemens out of the spotlight, or if you’re going to trot him out, advise him to be a little contrite. I don’t mean admit guilt, because Clemens isn’t going to do that, but at least apologize for the situation and say something like, “I’m sorry I ended up on the Mitchell Report. I’m innocent, but I’m sorry we’re all in this mess”. Maybe the public would have more sympathy.

      Brian Gleason

      May 14, 2009 at 12:59 pm

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