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T.O. Blames Media for Reputation. Really?

T.O.Buffalo Bills receiver, Terrell Owens, went into a postgame press conference after his team was defeated by the New Orleans Saints because it was mandated by the National Football League that he do so. (He also went catchless for zero yards and touchdowns for the first time in 185 games.)

{The following is the background and essentially a lesson in PR 101.}

Based on past performances, media expected Owens to provide enough provocative commentary to write their stories for them. They knew from experience what kind of questions that could set him off. So they poked; they prodded and reconfigured questions to get him to say something that would make for a sensational headline.

What emerged from a session during which Owens wore sunglasses and spoke in one or very few-word answers was growth of a reputation that he says he is trying to quell.

Owens left the Philadelphia Eagles for more money, then threw quarterback, Donovan McNabb, and other personnel under the proverbial bus. He took his ego and sunglass case to Dallas where he emotionally proclaimed during a press conference that followed a tough loss “That’s my quarterback…” when reporters asked about a questionable performance of Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo.

During the time he sought a trade from the Eagles, he was interviewed while doing shirtless sit-ups in his driveway. This man is a far cry from shy.

There is little debate that Owens is a talented receiver. He believes he is misunderstood, however. He said it is the media, and not him, that are to blame for his controversial reputation. He even blamed media for not taking his own written words – those he posted on his Twitter page – for taking him seriously, when intended to joke.

Personnel on ESPN’s NFL Live said that Owens was in a no-win situation with media after the Bills loss to the Saints. I disagree.

Media training can help Owens or anyone that has to face reporters after less-than-desirable circumstances answer questions without sounding smug or ignorant. It will help someone like Owens, who has created a circus-like public reputation wherever he’s gone, go straight with his reputation.

Coaches with whom Owens has worked have said that the receiver only wants to play football and play it well. Along with playing the game in the NFL are responsibilities to the media.

Whether it’s answering reporters’ questions during a news conference or posting thoughts on Twitter, athletes must consider what comes out of their mouth and minds, and the tone of those words. People who work with media can be a great help. I think for Owens, that help is as close as the Bills PR department.

Whether you’re an athlete, a food service provider or a stay-at-home parent, only you are responsible for what you say and how you say it. Your actions will go a long way toward backing up those words.

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10 Responses to T.O. Blames Media for Reputation. Really?

  1. Tim Newman October 1, 2009 at 6:47 am #

    I agree. Only you are responsible for what you say and what your actions are. You must take responsibility! Also, dont forget that he threw Jeff garcia under the bus when he was in SF.

  2. CoachDebra October 1, 2009 at 7:26 am #

    Professional sports is part of the Arts & Entertainment Industry. As a professional athlete – particularly a star athlete – you are paid to entertain.

    T.O. needs to grow up and take responsibility for his communications both on and off the field. Agreed, completely – But why should he?

    He's not held to any standard of conduct or expectation of leadership by his team, his coach, the owners or the NFL. There's no downside for him – he just keeps making more money.

    Hey, he's entertaining – isn't he just doing his job?

    Perhaps if we STOPPED WATCHING HIM. Perhaps if we stopped wasting TV time on him, he would get that his behavior is inappropriate. But what he's doing works – he gets attention, he gets money. Where exactly is his motivation to change?

  3. Brad_Williamson October 1, 2009 at 8:39 am #

    TO should continue to stay away from the help of PR people. Without his outrageously raw antics, he wouldn't be the valuable media entity that he is today.

    Love him or like him, the man is quite the entertainer – ya can't deny him that.

  4. CoachDebra October 1, 2009 at 8:59 am #

    Exactly – the question then becomes: “Do we expect our entertainers to also be leaders and role models?” I think that we do. The role of an entertainer can be a very powerful influencer because of the media attention, because of the visibility of that person to a large number of people. But our entertainers are not trained as leaders – and our leaders are expected to be entertainers.

    There's something very off in this scenario. If we equate visibility with credibility, quality and leadership – perhaps we deserve low quality leaders.

    T.O.'s qualifying characteristics are the ability to run fast, leap high and catch a funny shaped ball. That doesn't mean he is a leader.

    Perhaps, someday, he'll choose to take advantage of his visibility to make a difference in the world – instead of just scratching his own ego. But I contend that's HIS choice, not ours and not the Media's.

  5. Matt October 1, 2009 at 1:39 pm #

    Chad Johnson seems to know how to make his media relationship fun and T.O. seems to know how to turn it into root canal. Would coaching help? Maybe. I agree he's no good with bland athletespeak, but I'm not sure how much is going on between the ears there.

  6. CoachDebra October 1, 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    Hmmm – perhaps what's needed isn't PR coaching – but my kind of coaching 😉

  7. robertinnis October 20, 2009 at 8:34 am #

    well TO needs some sort of crash course on this stuff,

  8. robertinnis October 20, 2009 at 3:34 pm #

    well TO needs some sort of crash course on this stuff,

  9. suibne April 5, 2010 at 3:51 am #

    why do you even put the mike in this bumblef.ks face?

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