Can good PR help Steve Phillips?

Steve Phillips, now former ESPN Baseball Analyst and former New York Mets General Manager, is receiving criticism for voluntarily checking himself into a rehabilitation center following the sex scandal that broke last week.

phillipsxA representative of Phillips, Steve Lefkowitz, issued a statement that Phillips has entered an inpatient treatment facility “to address his personal issues.” Lefkowitz said Phillips’ problems are not substance related and compared Phillips’ problems to those of actor Michael Douglas, who has been treated for sexually compulsive behavior.

“Steve Phillips is not a sleazebag. He’s a good guy who just fell off the wagon,” Lefkowitz said. “Whatever he did wrong, it wasn’t under his control or he wouldn’t be checking himself in for help. He knows he needs help and wants a life with his family — that is paramount to him above everything else.”

Phillips’ Crime in the Court of Public Opinion

Phillips was fired from his job at ESPN Sunday after his affair with ESPN production assistant Brooke Hundley,22, became public.   When Phillips ended the affair, Hundley went after Phillips’ wife and son in what journalists are calling Fatal Attraction style. Hundley made phone calls to Marni Phillips and left a letter at her home after trying to contact the Phillips’ son on Facebook. Hundley was also fired from her position at ESPN.brooke-hundley-and-steve-phillips

Both parties are receiving bad press, but Phillips has more to lose. This is not the first time adultery has interfered with his career or marriage.  He’s admitted to having multiple affairs with women while working for the Mets, and in 1998, Phillips was sued for sexual harassment by another Mets employee but the case was settled out of court.

Will He Recover?

From the eyes of someone in PR, Phillips did the right thing. He was honest. He admitted to his affair and apologized to his family. He is even checked himself into rehab to fix his problem.

Yet, he lost his job, his wife has filed for divorce and he is being ridiculed by the public. While he deserves what he has coming from his wife, everything else seems to be a little extreme.

So what else can Phillips do to redeem himself and his career in sports?  His PR staff needs to go into complete crisis management mode.

The first thing they can do is to get Phillips in front of the camera or journalists. In his statement to ESPN, he said that he would not comment any further on his personal life but since then his “people” have issued several statements on his behalf.  It is understandable that many of the statements have come from his staff in this type of situation, but it would be more sincere to hear it straight from Phillips’ mouth.

Aside from that, they are going to have to be creative.  I’d suggest having Phillips blog about his time at the rehabilitation center and his problems. This will make the problem more real and not just a cover up for being a sleazy jerk. Other online tactics would also be useful because that is where the biggest buzz about this is.

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