De’Anthony Thomas Info Graphic

One of the most important jobs for a sports agent is to get their client drafted. In order to improve De’Anthony Thomas’ draft stock I created an Info Graphic highlighting his talents.

De'Anthony Thomas draft stock

De’Anthony Thomas draft stock

I included his 40-yard dash time to show his speed as well as key attributes rated with 1 marking his highest value. To show his physique, I added a track picture that shows his muscle definition and face. His height and weight are very important for teams to know when grading his draftability. To illustrate his college production, I created pie graphs for yards and bar graphs for touchdowns. Return, receiving and rushing statistics are the most important production factors to judge De’Anthony Thomas by. Because of his size, he will most likely be used more for the return and passing game in the NFL rather than an every-down running back. To accommodate this I put his college statistics in order, top to bottom, of importance to his NFL career. For the bar graph I used pictures of De’Anthony Thomas of in-game action while playing in college. The return graph has a picture of him running back a kick; the receiving graph has a picture of him catching a pass; the rushing graph has a picture of him running the ball. I used green, black, yellow and white colors for the Info Graphic to blend with the University of Oregon colors that Thomas is wearing in the photos. Overall, I feel that this Info Graphic helps tell the story of how De’Anthony Thomas will be an asset to an NFL team.

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Not so Smart decision

Marcus Smart corralled by teammates

On February 8, Oklahoma State basketball player, Marcus Smart, was involved in an in-game altercation with a fan. The Cowboys were trailing Texas Tech in the final seconds when Smart fell into the crowd after attempting to block a shot. As Smart got to his feet, it was evident that he was exchanging words with a fan. Within seconds of getting up, Smart shoved the fan backwards. The man fell backward in the crowd and Smart was pulled away by his teammates. He was assessed a technical foul and sat out the rest of the game as Oklahoma State lost its fourth game in a row.

Following the game, the Big 12 Conference chose to suspend Smart for three games. Smart gave a statement a day after the game during a press conference. He apologized to the fan, his team, his University and his family for his actions. He showed remorse in his statement and took accountability for the incident.

Marcus Smart at a press conference

The Oklahoma State basketball coach also spoke at the press conference. Coach Ford showed support for Smart and explained that  it was out of character for his star player to exhibit violent behavior. Although the press conference helped dissolve the tension of the situation, the context of what was said between the fan and Smart was not discussed.

An altercation like this is something that public relation practitioners have to deal with. A crisis between an athlete and a fan is never a good situation and communication is needed from the player, the University and the athletic conference involved. Oklahoma State handled the situation rather well. With the press conference Marcus Smart was able to explain his side of the event and take responsibility for his part in the altercation. I think that not getting in to the details of what the fan said was a good idea. It kept the response professional and avoided putting the blame on the fan. The PR professionals guiding Oklahoma State did a good job in handling this crisis.

Julianna Pena Injury Mystery

Julianna Pena

On Wednesday, January 29, womens MMA fighter, Julianna Pena, was forced to withdraw from a planned fight set for UFC 171. The UFC announced that Pena suffered a gruesome leg injury during training. Pena suffered a torn ACL, MCL, LCL, meniscus and hamstring in her right leg. A day after she withdrew, UFC president, Dana White, reported to the media that Pena had been attacked in her Spokane gym. White told reporters that in a phone conversation with Pena, she broke down crying and told him that she had been assaulted by a male training partner. He claimed that Pena was targeted because she was wearing an “Ultimate Fighter” t-shirt.

“Sikjitsu,” the Spokane gym where Pena trains, has faced scrutiny for the incident. Rick Little, Pena’s coach, told a reporter that his fighter’s injury happened during an unsupervised training session and could have been avoided with proper stretching. Dana White did not back down on his stance about the Sikjitsu gym although he agreed that the truth about what really happened to Pena lied in between what both sides claimed. White even went on to tweet about the incident, imploring Pena to find a new gym.

From a public relations perspective, the event that happened is something that does not look good for any party involved. For the UFC, a respectable image is a key to maintaining its status as a legitimate sport, rather than a grotesque spectacle. Sikjitsu also faces a crisis because its reputation can be harmed by accusations that it is an unsafe place to train. Lastly, Julianna Pena must deal with credibility issues because her claims were argued as untrue. Each entity around this debacle must tactfully use PR to repair damage to its name.

The UFC could have handled this situation better by not attacking Sikjitsu immediately. Dana White is known to be outspoken and in this case he ranted about the incident without having both sides of the story. This situation would have gone more smoothly by taking a more measured approach. If I was advising the UFC with PR knowledge when the injury was reported, I would have told the UFC to make a statement about the injury and include that the matter of how it happened was under investigation. I would have advised Dana White to avoid telling the media that Pena was attacked until everything was sorted out. The UFC has done better at keeping injuries a private matter as of late but in this circumstance, it showed a lack of public relation awareness.

http://msn.foxsports.com/ufc/story/dana-white-julianna-pena-injured-knee-when-she-was-attacked-at-her-gym-013014 http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1941643-tuf-18-winner-julianna-pena-out-of-ufc-171-fight-after-devastating-knee-injury http://mmajunkie.com/2014/01/severe-injury-scratches-tuf-18-winner-julianna-pena-from-ufc-171-sarah-kaufman-volunteers-to-step-up/

Silencing the beast

LynchSuperbowl week is underway for Superbowl 48 and the media is churning out story after story. One topic that has become popular daily is the lack of interaction Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has given to the media. The explosive runner has shied away from the cameras and given brief answers to reporters questions. Lynch is one of the brightest stars on a Seahawk team that finished the regular season fourth in the league in total rushing yards. For each of the last three days, stories have been written about the six to seven minute length of time that Lynch has spent with the media. In videos of Lynch’s interviews, he is seen wearing large sunglasses, headphones on top of his head, a baseball cap and even a hood pulled over his head.

“I ain’t never seen no talking win me nothing,” said Lynch. “You want something, you go get it. Ain’t no reason to talk about it.” Lynch might not see how being friendly with the media can translate to games won but he is missing an opportunity to win in another area of his life. A personal brand is something that people can recognize a player by. With the largest media coverage exploding during Superbowl week, Lynch is turning down an opportunity to capitalize on creating a personal brand that people can stand behind. His camera shy behavior is creating an image for himself that he is a private person and would rather not be a celebrity. Most fans can respect that and let Lynch be Lynch but if dollar signs are important to Lynch, he is losing by mostly ignoring the media.

Already a star in the NFL based on his onfield performance, Lynch has the opportunity to shine off the field as well. With a more recognizable personal brand, endorsements are likely to come his way. While I would not advise my client to pretend to be someone they are not, I would advise Lynch of how great business ventures can come from communicating with the media. The media writes stories about athletes, fans read these stories, companies hire athletes to gain recognition for their products. If I was Lynch’s agent, I would encourage him to take time to be involved with the media. Lynch’s Seahawk teammate, Richard Sherman, is on the other side of the spectrum when it comes to interaction with the media. Instead of meeting the bare minimum of media obligations, Sherman seeks media attention even when the media isn’t seeking him. Sherman, who holds a degree in communication from Stanford University, understands how creating a personal brand can bring opportunities beyond football.

The Superbowl is a once a year opportunity for only two teams in the league. For the select players that get this privilege they are able to take advantage of media coverage that can produce a personal brand. As a sports agent, its my job to advise my clients of decisions that will benefit them. Superbowl media week is the biggest stage for players to express who they are. Marshawn Lynch has the chance to bring recognition to his personal brand during Superbowl week. By being more open with the media. Lynch will give himself endorsement opportunities.

Richard Sherman makes a statement about his brand

Still shot of Richard Sherman interview

Still shot of Richard Sherman interview following NFC championship game on 1-19-14

Following the NFC championship game on Sunday, Richard Sherman, an all-pro cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, boasted about himself as the best cornerback in the league in an interview with Erin Andrews. During the interview, Sherman shouted at the camera and interviewer and insulted his opponent, Michael Crabtree. The interview was broadcast nationally on FOX and many people found the outburst off-putting.

Sherman’s background is an important part of his persona. This is not the first time that Sherman has come off as brash. In February 2013, Sherman engaged in a highly publicized Twitter war with Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis. Along with other incidents, Sherman has built a reputation as a cocky, trash-talking, physical player. This reputation is not completely by accident. Sherman has a bachelors degree in communication from Stanford University where he earned a 3.9 GPA. His intelligence and communication savvy have orchestrated his public persona.

Much of the response to the interview has been critical of the cornerback. In the immediate backlash of his comments Sherman did not back down. He went on to reiterate his sentiments about Crabtree and stated that an altercation between the two that had occurred previous to that particular football game contributed to his anger. On Monday, Sherman wrote a column regarding what took place after the game. He gave a small bit of backstory to the Crabtree situation and also defended himself as a person. He accepted that his antics are a small part of who he is but cautioned people not to make character judgements based off what goes on during a football game. Although he did not apologize in his column, Sherman did send a text message to an NFL analyst. In the text message he apologized for his antics during the interview but left out what many people would have expected in the apology. He did not apologize to Crabtree. Sherman apologized to his team for taking the glory away from a great win. After his unexpected interview, stories about Sherman were the heavy focus in the media. He apologized to his team because they did not get the recognition that they deserved for playing a great game. From a public relations perspective, following the outburst, Sherman has done things well. He has maintained an honest and transparent representation of himself and he has not gone back on his word.

Although I would not recommend the behavior exhibited in his interview, if I was advising Sherman in communication, my public relation response would have been similar. When analyzing the communication that took place after the interview, I don’t think he could have done much better. The message that he sent to his publics was that he is genuine, passionate and loyal to his team. Unfortunately for Sherman, his message will not be heard by everyone that was affected by his interview. Immediately following a nationally broadcast football game on FOX, the audience that saw his interview was enormous. His apology however was a text message to ESPN’s Ed Werder. This platform is unlikely to reach the multitudes of people that developed a negative opinion about him. My recommendation would be to do another on-camera interview with Erin Andrews. A second interview would give him the opportunity to communicate why he acted the way he did. The interview could be posted on YouTube and people that searched for the original interview would be able to watch the follow-up as well. By doing a second interview and having it posted on YouTube, Sherman would be able to reach a large audience and help people understand where he was coming from.

Overall, I think Sherman made the best of a controversial situation. His communication was honest and people admire that quality. The biggest point of improvement that he could have made was reaching a larger audience with his response. I don’t believe that he has won back all of his fans but he might have gained more than he lost.

Georges St-Pierre comments on UFC

Georges St-Pierre Interviewing

Georges St-Pierre Interviewing

Last week former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre gave an interview with Canadian media that criticized the UFC’s lack of action in fighting performance enhancing drugs in the sport of mixed martial arts. The comments came as a surprise to many people including UFC president Dana White. Following this week’s UFC Fight Night 35 in Georgia, White responded to St-Pierre’s criticism by putting the responsibility on athletic commissions to test athletes and stating that the UFC punishes violators stiffly for testing positive.

Georges St-Pierre

Georges St-Pierre in the ring

White’s stance is one that the UFC has taken before. Although governing body athletic commissions are ultimately responsible for making sure athletes are not cheating in mixed martial arts, the UFC as an organization has the ability to go beyond that one prefight test and adopt a more accurate regimen of finding performance enhancing drug users. By communicating that one prefight drug test is enough to catch all substance abusers in the sport, the UFC is sending a message to its publics that it does not have any desire to change the current landscape of performance enhancing drug use in mixed martial arts.

As a public relations advisor to the UFC I would have suggested a different form of communication. Georges St-Pierre is one of the most popular mixed martial arts fighters of all time. The UFC often touted him as the pay-per-view king. A person of St-Pierre’s stature likely requires an immediate response from the UFC. Following St-Pierre’s comments, the UFC could have released a statement to the media about how it respects St-Pierre’s opinion and agrees that mixed martial arts is no place for performance enhancing drug users. This would help the UFC’s image in two ways. By agreeing with St-Pierre, the UFC would portray a company that cares about the opinions of its employees. The UFC has a reputation for silencing its fighters opinions and attacking them publicly for outspoken comments. Agreeing with a fighter would improve the consumers support for a company that cares about its employees and it would also give other fighters the confidence that their boss will not berate them publicly for stating their opinion. This statement would also help the UFC’s image is by letting its publics know that it is against performance enhancing drugs. Instead of accepting that the current drug testing system is satisfactory, because most people feel that it is inadequate, the UFC could express that it wants more stringent testing as well.

Without making any managerial decisions on increasing independent testing, the UFC could have done a better job communicating to its publics following St-Pierre’s comments. The route that the UFC chose left its publics feeling that increasing drug testing isn’t a serious issue and that St-Pierre should not be giving his opinion to people. Good communication could have turned St-Pierre’s comments into a positive situation but instead the UFC made itself look worse.