Tuesday, February 17, 2009

HOW PUBLIC OPINION WILL DEAL WITH A-ROD

“All business in a democratic country begins with public permission and exists by public approval.”---Arthur Page, the late and legendary former director of communications for AT&T.


Is Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod), the superstar baseball player of the New York Yankees, a business? In 2007, he signed the richest contract in baseball history ($275 million for 10 years…plus $30 million more if he breaks the all-time home run record of 762). He is an investor, a product endorser, has his own public relations advisors and agent, recently had a stadium named after him (following a $4-million donation) at the University of Miami, and so on and so forth. Alex is more than a business; he is a franchise. Without his fan base, however, his earnings would decline considerably.

And, as I see it, that is truly what is at issue with the revelation that A-Rod took steroids – performance enhancing drugs -- during the 2001-03 seasons as a player with the Texas Rangers. The steroid test that he and his teammates took was supposed to be confidential…the results never to be revealed. This revelation was a violation of privacy. The news has recently dominated the media with headline and “front page” stories on the internet and print and broadcast channels everywhere.

The issue is complex. A-Rod lied in a 2007 interview with Katie Couric of CBS, when he said he never took steroids. He did not volunteer this recent admission—which was revealed by a third party—and he only admitted to it after the story broke. Another complicating factor: Major League Baseball did not rule steroids illegal until 2005. (Steroids have been part of baseball's banned substance list since 1991; however testing for major league players did not begin until 2003. It wasn’t until 2005 that MLB announced a new drug policy, with year-round testing and suspensions for violations.)

His fans feel defrauded. They are concerned about the outstanding years he had while taking steroids and whether he would have done as well without them. His role-model position with youngsters has been sullied. Therefore, should his records stand or be erased? Is he indeed one of the greatest players of all time?

What should A-Rod do? There is no formal punishment for his “crime” in Major League Baseball. This is unfortunate for the fans and the game. The Commissioner has been urged to come out against A-Rod and suspend him for a period of time…the only way the game can make a public statement. But nothing has been done to date.

Hank Aaron, the home run leader, believes that baseball cannot erase the past and that A-Rod’s records are etched in stone. The likelihood is that his point of view will prevail.

I for one am disappointed in A-Rod, despite the privacy violation, which is not to be condoned. Even his admission was suspect. He said he had no idea what kind of steroids he was taking. Are we to believe that? Assuming he performs on the field, however, which he most likely will, I don’t believe he will pay the price he should for his behavior. The fans are fickle in the U.S., and they will support him if he is a vital factor in Yankee victories. He is a young man, and if there are no other incidents, this event—under our current system—will gradually diminish in importance.

As a precaution, however, A-Rod should undertake a reputation rehabilitation program involving major charitable donations, support for under-supported causes, and even lead a program to prevent drug and steroid use among kids and the public in general, where he can talk about his own mistakes. That will not make me forget his violation of trust, but it will likely increase my regard for his apology.

Technorati Tags: Arthur Page, Alex Rodriguez, AT&T, A-Rod, New York Yankees, University of Miami, steroids, performance enhancing drugs, Texas Rangers, Katie Couric, CBS, Major League Baseball, business, communications, public relations

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