• phil cantor/@osgphil

What Were the Houston Astros PR People Thinking??


What??

By most accounts it hasn't been the best of weeks to be a part of the Houston Astros.


Never mind the 2-0 deficit the team is facing against the Washington Nationals in the World Series, somehow they managed to completely botch an incident that happened after they clinched said World Series berth and won't live it down any time soon.


The worst thing is---it is something they could easily have avoided.


By now, most who follow sports know the backstory. After clinching their American League title and while celebrating in the locker room, now former team Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman felt weirdly compelled to yell to the female reporters in the room about Astros closer Roberto Osuna. The Astros signed Osuna in 2018 after he served a lengthy suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Domestic Violence Policy.


Mind you--the Astros took a lot of heat for signing Osuna.....LAST YEAR....It hadn't been a topic of conversation in 2019.


Until Taubman felt mysteriously compelled to bring it up despite absolutely zero people in the room talking to him or asking him ANY type of question.


Directly in his line of fire was Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated along with two other female reporters including one wearing a purple Domestic Violence awareness bracelet.


You'd think someone would have stopped it right there before it became a problem. But you'd be wrong. Apstein lodged a complaint and wrote a story about it for SI, but she held off publishing it because she wanted the Astros to respond.


Here's her initial story


Well, the Astros responded. Not in the way most organizations or businesses with people who's specific jobs are to manage public relations would have. Instead of just saying "We are going to conduct a full investigation of the allegations"....they attacked the messenger, Ms. Apstein.


Read the initial Astros response here. I'm not sure it could have been ANY more tone deaf. Again--all you have to say is we are investigating the allegations.


Yet they didn't. Someone thought it would be a great idea to "Attack" the messenger by calling the story "Misleading and irresponsible" and then proceeding to get what we later found out was every single fact about what happened wrong.


It wasn't until Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed his concern and Taubman eventually issued an apology that things began to happen.



The Astros finally---finally on Thursday issued a statement apologizing for what happened.



Team General Manager Jeff Luhnow would later take questions and declined to say who approved the initial statement and/or reaction only to say it was wrong. He instead chose to say "Many People" in the Astros organization approved the initial insulting statement claiming the story was not true. For reasons I can't understand---he keeps digging the hole deeper by not admitting he or the team was wrong.




The questions here are obvious. The biggest being WTF were you thinking? Should Taubman have said what he did, OF Course NOT. But this could have been handled with ONE GROWNUP in the Astros Executive Offices saying "We will investigate this" before making any kind of statement? Nobody wants to touch that question now.


It goes with out saying about how big a problem Domestic Violence is and Professional Sports have had issues addressing it in an appropriate manner. In this case---it appears absolutely nobody was accusing the Astros of anything, yet someone felt compelled to bring it up and then the front office completely bungled the response....


There were witnesses, plenty of people who were willing to corroborate what happened. The Astros initial statement for some idiotic reason claimed the women were interviewing a player when every single person in the room who saw them (there were several) knew the women reporters were not doing anything other than occupying space in the room at the moment Taubman malfunctioned.


What Manfred and MLB should be worried about here is the cavalier attitude the Astros took in initially brushing all of this off. Especially since every single thing reported appears to have been correct and verified by multiple people.


One of the things sports teams or businesses in general should ALWAYS be aware of is public perception. That's why they have PR Staffs containing multiple people who are allegedly experts in managing crisis situations.


The tone and subject matter of the issue here is of course a horrible matter that should never, ever be mocked or made fun of by anyone. And any PR Professional worth their salt should know this and take any accusations like these incredibly seriously before issuing a response.


There is NO excuse for a Team President or Team Owner to say to anyone, "Deny it and blame the reporter", which I'm not saying happened here--but it sure comes across that way. That is unacceptable even in the current universe we live in where Certain Politicians cry "Fake News" anytime there is something reported bad about them that they don't like.


Eventually that strategy backfires. I know for some it is hard to believe but reporters/journalists and so many other professionals have not spent their entire lives trying to make things up and deceive you by making up stories despite what you are now being told. To have the Astros, Luhnow, Jim Crane (owner) and others believe that they are truly sorry for blaming the reporter though never walking back their "Misleading and Irresponsible" comment is an embarrassment to Major League Baseball, Professional Sports and a slap in the face to Public Relations Professionals around the world.....


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