We won’t know for some time, if ever, who’s telling the truth about allegations that Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning used human growth hormone when recovering from potential career-ending injuries a few years back.
And, given the sorry history of Lance Armstrong and many others, it’s not worth speculating or taking sides. Today’s Washington Post, in advance of Sunday’s 50th Super Bowl, and possibly Manning’s final game, dives deep into what transpired around the controversial Al Jazeera report.
But what is clear is that Manning is taking no chances with his reputation, hiring lawyers, private investigators and one of the most high-profile crisis managers available, former presidential press secretary Ari Fleischer.
Because if you don’t like Papa John’s pizza, or you’re not one of the millions who can’t get the Nationwide Insurance jingle out of your head, then surely you understand that Manning stands to make as much or more money in the next decade as a TV pitchman and possible NFL commentator as he did on the field.
For Manning – a long-time media darling perceived as one of the NFL’s best, as well as one of it’s ‘good guys’ – much is at stake.
What has his investment returned?
At least he has a smart crisis manager. If you read the Post story, Fleischer walks several fine lines, commenting and appearing transparent when he can, but retreating behind health disclosure laws when he needs to. He plays the crisis management game at the same high level Manning does in the NFL.
This certainly beats what we call the ‘Death Strategy,’ delay, deny, deceive. Or, the more frequently used duck, cover, no comment approach. Both are devastatingly bad.
Manning previously had a squeaky clean reputation, which is why many of those accused with him faded into the background in follow up stories. No one wants to believe this aw shucks guy with the golden arm fell victim to the ethical failures and cheating that drove many others to sacrifice integrity for money. And at this point, no one can say he did.
But as one would expect from a Super Bowl quarterback, he’s mounting a good offense.
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.