Tag Archives: Controversy

Slam Dunk Controversy

If you’ve been near a television, radio or basically any social media outlet over the last couple of days, you’ve heard about Donald Sterling and his less than appealing commentary. In short, Sterling made negative comments about his girlfriend being friends with “blacks” and said he did not want them at his games. Once the audio of his remarks were made public, Clippers players as well as the NBA were outraged. In response, the NBA banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million dollars. Anyone else think Sterling is kicking himself right now?!

As PR people (note applicable to all human beings), this mess can serve as a teaching moment for several reasons. Numero uno: Nothing you say is private if your life is public, meaning if you live in the public eye, you are vulnerable to have whatever you say and do examined by the world. In Sterling’s case, the comments he made were said in private but clearly it didn’t make a difference. It’s important to make our clients aware of this and make sure they know what they can and cannot say in various situations.

donald sterlingPoint number two: Trust no one. Now, this is a hard sell because you need people in your life to talk to. But for those in the public eye, it’s important for them to realize not everyone should know every detail of their lives. There are bad people out there who just want to get close to someone for the story or the almighty dollar. Public figures and celebrities need to keep this in the back of their minds.

No one is denying that what Sterling said was completely wrong. He should be held accountable for his actions regardless of where or when he made these comments. One could argue, though, that more severe acts have been committed with minimal consequences. For example, Riley Cooper of the Philadelphia Eagles made racist comments at a concert. He was fined as a result of his actions but is still an active player within the NFL. I understand each sport’s leadership is different but Sterling’s lifetime ban versus Cooper’s fine makes me wonder. Other athletes, say Michael Vick for example, have gotten away with far worse too.

The bottom line is people, public figures or otherwise, need to be held accountable for their actions. PR people need to aid their clients in being responsible for their words and actions. Donald Sterling’s situation is unfortunate but can be used as a lesson for all of us.

Shock Value of a Selfie

If you were in 10 feet of a television or computer yesterday, you heard about or even saw Rolling Stone Magazine’s controversial cover for their August 3rd publication. The cover features surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhohkar Tsarnaev with the headline “The Bomber.” The tagline underneath reads “How a popular, promising student, failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster.” The picture, taken by Tsarnev himself, has also been featured on the front page of the New York Times. The magazine hasn’t even hit newsstands yet but already stirred up the emotions of many. 

When the cover appeared all over the Internet yesterday, people were outraged. On my own timeline, I saw several people who said they would be boycotting Rolling Stone magazine because of it. A Facebook page dedicated to a said boycott already has 26,000 likes and #BoycottRollingStone was a trending topic on Twitter yesterday. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino sent a letter to Wenner Media, who publishes the magazine, saying the cover was a disgrace and should have been about the first responders. Stores including CVS and Walgreens refused to distribute the magazine as well. After all this, Rolling Stone stands by their cover, releasing this statement yesterday:

“The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.” 

Rolling Stone CoverTo me, the question Rolling Stone needs to ask is was the shock value of this cover worth this fire storm of outrage from the public? It appears their intentions are good and that they are trying to shed light onto a situation many cannot understand. However, we will not know if this is true until we read the article. It is true that people who normally wouldn’t care about Rolling Stone are now talking about it and generating online conversation about the magazine. But, if this is all negative conversation that leads to boycotting, is it worth it. Shouldn’t a magazine’s bottom line be about sales not about trending on Twitter?

Rolling Stone has published highly controversial covers before. They’ve featured John Lennon holding a nude Yoko Ono as well as a nude Janet Jackson. Possibly their most arguable cover to date featured Charles Manson; the article attached to this cover subsequently won the magazine an award. They’ve been known to push the envelope and write pieces that could be considered over the edge. 

 I can understand both sides of the issue in this situation. Rolling Stone is committed to reporting every aspect of the Boston Marathon Bombing, including information about Tsarnaev. As a writer, I admire this and applaud them for broaching such a topic. However, the events that occurred that day were tragic and the general public is not ready to see this terrorist on a cover of a national magazine. While those affected will never be the same, more time might have prevented such backlash. 

What do you think about the Rolling Stone cover? Would you read the article?

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