We thought the “sexting” epidemic only afflicted hormonally-charged, pubescent teens. Then the Brett Favre scandal hit newsstands across the nation.
Allegedly, the 41-year-old Minnesota Vikings quarterback has been making passes both on the field and off; Jenn Sterger, a former New York Jets sideline reporter and Playboy Bunny, claims Favre sent her unsolicited nude self-portraits via text message.
Whether or not Sterger’s claims are true, they’ve created yet another sports celebrity scandal. Some PR professionals, like Glenn Selig, founder of The Publicity Agency, doubt the scandal will be devastatingly detrimental to Favre’s fan base. Selig said the football legend’s long and successful career will cushion him from losing too many fans; however, Favre’s lack of response to Sterger’s accusations will only raise eyebrows and fuel suspicions.
While the judicial system operates on the “innocent until proven guilty” principle, our society tends to assume the guilt of celebrities in scandals like this. As Selig said, Favre “will need to respond or people will believe it is him.”
Favre should learn from past PR mistakes of other sports celebrities, like Tiger Woods. Almost a year ago, Woods made no comment after news broke of his reputation-damaging domestic disturbance, and his silence caused an even greater uproar among fans and media.
However, Favre remains mum, even as the NFL begins investigations into claims that a Jets employee acted as an intermediary between Favre and Sterger — allegations that could lead to sexual harassment charges and more serious legal action.
By saying nothing, Favre allows the media to take control of the story and the fans to think what they will — however untrue it may be.
The quarterback’s best PR play at this point is to come out and tell the truth. It doesn’t matter what the truth is or how Favre releases it; the only way to begin combating the negative press around this scandal is to deal with it directly before it inflicts permanent damage on his reputation — and his football legacy.
What’s your advice for Mr. Favre?