Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has created enough controversy to fill a dozen PR textbooks. Listed below are some of the ingredients that went into creating this brouhaha:
1. Be a Billionaire NBA Owner—for 33 years, and somehow fail to realize that the league is three-quarters African-American, as are many of the fans who buy tickets and expensive concessions. That’s not Jack Nicholson coming to your games—it’s folks who work for a living.
2. Have a Checkered Past—with stories about lawsuits for racial discrimination swirling around you and ugly statements that the NBA has somehow managed to overlook for thirty years.
3. Make Outrageous Statements–to an ex-girlfriend almost fifty years your junior, even though you made your bones and your bucks as a divorce lawyer and should know better.
4. Have Bad Timing—your team is finally in the playoffs, but this surfaces just as game five is coming up and the media are back from spring vacation and in the mood for some red meat.
5. Don’t Apologize—in fact, don’t say a word. Let others tell your story for you; they’ll do a much better job.
It is rare to come across someone who is totally beyond PR help, but Donald Sterling appears to have done it.
Maybe he can hang onto his team because owners are nervous about “there but for the grace of God go I,” but the franchise cannot recover its sponsorships and its fans without a new owner. Said new owner will need to have the demeanor of the Dali Lama to receive approval to buy a team, which lets out most billionaires who would qualify.
Beyond help. Case closed. Next!
Bill Huey is president of Strategic Communications, a corporate communications and marketing consultancy, and author of "Carbon Man," a novel about greed.