The question people most often ask me when someone has imploded in the media is whether that person can overcome all the negative attention and restore his or her reputation. And so it has been with L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
The answer in this case, “Not a chance.” Not even our best public relations services could help Sterling now. He committed three huge mistakes in the wake of his surreptitiously recorded phone call:
1. Sterling is a racist.
In the arena of public opinion, being labeled a racist is about as bad as it gets. The only offenses that trump it are child molestation and murder. Sterling proved himself to be a racist long before the phone call with his mistress went public; the telephonic exchange simply exposed his prejudice. (Remember, these days, you’re always on the record)
2. Sterling is arrogant
Reports came out last week that indicated Clippers’ management hired a crisis consultant immediately after the recording went public. The consultant proposed three different ways to handle the controversy. Sterling refused to heed the advice.
3. Sterling is unapologetic.
America has a long track record of forgiving people after they’ve been publicly flogged if they show sincere remorse. Sterling has shown zero signs of recognizing the error of his ways and I highly doubt he’s going to change course anytime soon.
It would have been very difficult to help Sterling once his racial attitudes were made public, but once he arrogantly refused to listen to advisors and offer apologies, Sterling’s reputation was irrevocably tarnished.