Two Sporting Stories Underscore Communications Subtleties

Thom Weidlich 02.14.19


Two recent stories from the sports world show opposite handling of crises. In neither case did the party confronted with the crisis say much. But in the first the reticence came off as discreet, while in the second it appeared evasive. This shows how subtle crisis communications can be.

On Feb. 5, ESPN published a story that revealed that back in August a 79-year-old woman named Linda Goldbloom died days after being beaned by a foul ball as she sat watching a Dodgers game in the team’s Los Angeles stadium. The ball had flown up behind home plate and just beyond the reach of the protective netting.

The incident wasn’t shown on the TV coverage of the game or mentioned in any news reports, according to ESPN. When Goldbloom died, the team made no mention of it, though it gave the sports-news site a statement for its story this month.

“Mr. and Mrs. Goldbloom were great Dodgers fans who regularly attended games,” it said. “We were deeply saddened by this tragic accident and the passing of Mrs. Goldbloom. The matter has been resolved between the Dodgers and the Goldbloom family. We cannot comment further on this matter.”

The team did, however, give a further statement to The New York Times saying it hadn’t publicly disclosed Goldbloom’s injury because “the Dodgers generally do not make public reports of accidents that take place at Dodger Stadium.” It added: “We avoid doing so out of respect for the privacy of the persons involved in the accidents and their families.”

One could argue the Dodgers don’t want bad publicity, but it’s somewhat odd that the team didn’t proactively reveal such an accident, to get in front of the story. Goldbloom’s death was only the third in all of baseball history to result from a fan in the stands being hit by a ball, according to ESPN. Perhaps the team does have a policy against such disclosure.

Matt Kuchar

The example of a crisis not so well handled comes from a recent article in In November, professional golfer Matt Kuchar won the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Playa del Carmen, Mexico — his first victory in more than four years.

But then it leaked out that Kuchar had paid his caddie, David Giral Ortiz, who was from the area and not his regular man, only $5,000. Based on Kuchar’s haul, Ortiz’s payday should have been closer to $130,000.

Ortiz said Kuchar at one point offered him another $15,000, but he turned down the insult. When he won, Kuchar had called Ortiz his “lucky charm.” The caddie said he believes he deserves $50,000.

The story became known after an ex-PGA Tour player had tweeted, “Who’s gonna b the one to identify the player the [sic]paid his caddy 3k after winning a PGA tour event last fall???”

Naturally that caused some talk on social media. Ortiz disclosed emails between him and Kuchar’s agent, Mark Steinberg (“I am out of the country. What Matt has offered is fair,” Steinberg wrote, unwisely).

Neither golf pro nor agent commented much publicly. That’s a mistake. The flap could have a negative effect on their reputations, though Kuchar’s is maybe strong enough to withstand it. In fact, just today published another story in which he said he was “disappointed” and “sad” over the disagreement.

Photo Credit: Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

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