Garcia’s Failed Crisis Management for Racist Woods Remarks

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    Negativity is a slippery slope

    Just last week, we discussed how pro golfer Sergio Garcia’s complaints about Tiger Woods left him labeled as a whiner by both traditional and social media.

    Apparently Garcia didn’t have enough negative attention, or PR training sessions, because this week his behavior took a turn for the straight out ugly. Here’s what happened, from the Guardian UK article by Ewan Murray that helped break the story:

    The Spaniard was on stage at the European Tour’s gala players’ awards dinner, where he was questioned by the Golf Channel’s Steve Sands. García, who has been embroiled in verbal battles with Woods since the Players Championship at Sawgrass this month, was asked in jest if he would have the American round for dinner one night during the upcoming US Open. “We will have him round every night,” García said. “We will serve fried chicken.”

    After reportedly making an exit from the dinner before he could questioned further, Garcia issued a statement, not personally, but through the European Tour:

    “I apologise for any offence that may have been caused by my comment on stage during The European Tour Players’ Awards dinner. I answered a question that was clearly made towards me as a joke with a silly remark, but in no way was the comment meant in a racist manner.”

    What Garcia failed to wrap his ego-inflated head around is the fact that not only is what he said clearly racist, but also the damage he did is being amplified by such a weak apology.

    The situation has now done another round in the media, and Garcia was forced to reiterate a more sincere apology several times Wednesday during media appearances. Tiger, on the other hand, took to Twitter to discuss:

    Topping off the (deserved) public bashing that Garcia’s received was a firm statement from his biggest sponsor, TaylorMade-adidas:

    “Sergio Garcia’s recent comment was offensive and in no way aligns with TaylorMade-Adidas Golf’s values and corporate culture. We have spoken with Sergio directly and he clearly has regret for his statement and we believe he is sincere. We discussed with Sergio that his comments are clearly out of bounds and we are continuing to review the matter.”

    Of course, those of us in crisis management are familiar with that this means. Let’s just say that, “we’re waiting a couple of days to see if we should can you,” isn’t far off.

    Garcia is traveling down a slippery slope here. If he (or his sponsors) don’t get his mouth in check soon, his income potential could come crashing down.

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]