Posted: April 15, 2015, 1:40 p.m.
by Esther Workman.
If you’re a fan of America’s favorite pastime, then you probably heard about Alexander Rodriguez’s suspension from Major League Baseball for the 2014 season. I think it was something to do with the use and possession of illegal performance-enhancing drugs over the course of multiple years in the league. MLB.com reported that A-Rod’s 162-game suspension punishment is the longest drug suspension and longest non-lifetime suspension in baseball history.
In an effort to save face, A-Rod penned a letter to fans, apologizing for his actions (no doubt thanks to a half-decent PR team rather than actual sincerity).
Many argued that A-Rod’s past success in the sport is due to his use of steroids; he received little mercy from fans and sports analysts alike. For those who don’t know, baseball players and fans are kind of superstitious — just a little bit.
The Yankees organization has won 27 World Series championships, the most recent in 2009. The past six seasons have been nothing short of miserable for fans who expect perfection.
Fast forward to April 6, 2015. Fans packed the grandstand at the new Yankee Stadium (R.I.P. old Yankee Stadium) to watch their beloved pinstripes take on the Toronto Blue Jays. Bathroom and concessions lines felt as long as the off-season. Nostalgia filled the air as Yankee fans remembered the greats: Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Mariano Rivera and, of course, Derek Jeter.
Opening Day was finally here.
Excitement mixed with feelings of anxiousness came next as number 13 took third base. It had been almost 17 months since he stood there last. The crowd rose to its feet to greet him with a standing ovation. Print on signs and T-shirts around the stadium read “#FORG1V3.”
Yankees fans seem to be somewhat united around A-Rod’s return, though there are some who think #d1sr3spect is more fitting.
So, where does MLB draw the line on ethics? In a sport where “stealing” a base is considered a good thing, can we expect the league to rightfully punish drug offenders? The Yankees have done little to protect the organization’s reputation from players like A-Rod, seeing as it is honoring his contract for another three years.
FleishmanHillard’s Mitch Germann’s article identifies brand protection as one of the most important aspects of sports PR. His recommended precautions include an “issues playbook” with prepared statements and protocol in case something goes wrong and social media training for consistent messaging and ethical practices in any situation.
I bet the MLB wishes Germann had written this article a year and a half ago.
A-Rod’s “punishment” was nothing more than a slap on the wrist with a promise that he could return in 2015 after his timeout was over. For young baseball fans who look up to players like A-Rod, the MLB is sending the message that breaking the rules is inconsequential and negligible.
Should MLB fans forgive A-Rod? Yes. Should they respect him? No. #Re2pect is reserved for those who are honest and represent their organization well.
Baseball fans might be superstitious, but #13 is bad luck for Major League Baseball.