With the removal of Clippers owner Donald Sterling, both the NBA and fans coast-to-coast were waiting to hear from “other owners.” That group has been the constant focus for the “rest of the story” during the entire debacle about an owner making racist comments, which were recorded in private and then broadcast to the world. As the story broke and then as it played out and snowballed, media continually reported that it would be pressure from other owners that would eventually push Sterling out of the NBA causing a Crisis PR situation.
But, for the most part, there was little public pressure from other owners of NBA teams and this key group had been silent – except for one. No one was surprised that when the NBA owners talked, there was one guy behind the microphone. Billionaire tech mogul and Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, is no stranger to the spotlight, nor to the repercussions of politically incorrect speech. In the wake of the Sterling crisis, the world waited for Cuban to speak, and when he did they got exactly what they were hoping for. Straight, no BS conversation.
Cuban refused to tar and feather Sterling, though he did clearly describe Sterling’s comments and the mindset behind them as “stupid.” What he did was point the finger back at the paper-thin and self-righteous naysayers – and opined that we all have prejudices, we all have moments where our thoughts are not pure, and we need to police those things. Bigotry is wrong, but we all live in glass houses. It was a classic line that cut to the heart of the issue.
In short, Cuban took his moment in the spotlight not to coddle, but to teach. The reaction was, predictably, shrill. With the exception of another brave voice, ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith, few applauded Cuban’s remarks and he was lambasted for them. Still, both men refused to back down and, in a particularly riveting moment of television, Smith responded to his critics with a diatribe that will go down as one of the best “wake up call” moments in recent history.
Both men entered an incredibly divisive situation with huge public relations implications and, essentially, they told all the handwringers to cut the crap. It is a clear and precise message that is often missing from these conversations and a necessary function of PR in every politically charged conversation.
About Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations. He is an experienced leader in the public relations industry with over 20 years of experience. Ronn Torossian has been named as Public Relations executive of the year by the American Business Awards, and has run countless award-winning Public Relations programs.
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