Here’s the question I’d ask Tom Brady: Given where you are today — accused of not only being a cheater, but now a liar as well — wouldn’t it have been far better, smarter and easier to have stood up at that pre-Super Bowl news conference and instead of denying everything about Deflategate said something like this:
“Yes, I knew the balls were deflated. I asked for that. It gave me an edge. This game is all about milliseconds and inches. I should not have done it. I’m sorry. I take responsibility. I apologize to Mr. Kraft, Coach Belichick, my teammates, our fans and my family. I’ll take whatever punishment I have coming.”
Of course it would be better.
Brady’s got no one but Brady to blame for this prolonged crisis that now actually seems to be damaging his legacy and reputation. He could have avoided the Wells report, avoided destroying his phone with 10,000 texts on it, and avoided being branded a cheater and a liar.
The measure of a crisis is its duration, not the severity of the original act. Most fans would have forgiven him the deflation. Own up to it.
Now, as he continues to fight, everyone outside a ZIP code starting with zero thinks he’s an arrogant sleazeball. What does he tell his children? ‘They’re all out to get me.’
All he’s done is generate more negative questions. What else is he hiding among all those texts? A girlfriend in every city and two in New York? That he secretly hates Belichick and bridles under his coaching dictums? That he thinks Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft is a phony? That his agent is a fool and his financial advisor is stupid and that his mansion has a leaky roof?
Is Brady just another Tiger Woods? A superstar athlete seemingly without peer who turns out to be a fraud?
It’s only going to get worse. Now this whole silly mess is going to move into federal court? Really? With the life-and-death issues facing our society, we’re going to ask a federal judge to determine whether Brady deflated some footballs? No wonder the Chinese think they’re passing America as a superpower. Is the Super Bowl really worth that much?
I have no illusions that Brady will suddenly see the light, cut his losses, take his punishment and move on.
But he should.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.