Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What Athletes Should Say About Their Former Teams

Former Ranger Ian Kinsler got in Josh Hamilton-like trouble with Texas Rangers fans when he said in an ESPN the Magazine interview that he hopes Texas goes "0-162" in 2014 and called Rangers GM Jon Daniels a "sleazeball".
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Kinsler also complained about having to take on additional leadership responsibilities in the absence of Michael Young in 2013.  Funny, because Kinsler told me in a 2012 Spring Training interview for TXA21 that he welcomed the opportunity to be more of a leader on the team.  Things change.

Here's the thing: I have had this very conversation with professional athletes regarding the right way to approach an interview about former teams.  Unless an athlete is ready to deal with the backlash, questions and scrutiny that come with making bold, harsh statements, don't say anything incendiary.

"I appreciated the opportunities I had with {INSERT NAME OF FORMER TEAM HERE} and am excited about my future with {INSERT NAME OF CURRENT TEAM HERE}."

That's a great answer when asked about a former team.

A reporter will continue to probe, undoubtedly.  A solid follow up would be:

"I learned so much with {INSERT NAME OF FORMER TEAM HERE} and am looking forward to applying what I learned and maximizing my potential with {INSERT NAME OF CURRENT TEAM HERE}.

When pressed about how things ended:

"That's all in the past.  I'm focused on being the best player I can be for the {INSERT NAME OF CURRENT TEAM HERE}."

If an athlete wants to rankle feathers, which is fine, fire away.  Be prepared, though, to readdress what was said, don't backtrack or claim something was taken "out of context".

Here's a tip: in TV interviews, the camera is an ally (or worst enemy).  TV reporters and editors can't wholly manipulate sound and take things "out of context" unless some Oscar-worthy editing is done.  As it relates to the Josh Hamilton interview, you saw the whole exchange.  When I asked him about his time with the Rangers we did not cover it with video or edit the sound.  Everything you saw was as it happened.

I do like the fact that Hamilton has a sense of humor about it.  He was nice when we talked about it on Opening Day last season and had some fun with Kinsler on Tuesday via Twitter:
Well, played, Josh.  Well played.

The Takeaway
I think former Rangers minority owner Chuck Greenberg made the most appropriate statement about delivering on-the-record comments about "sticky situations".
This is outstanding advice, whether discussing a former team, old flame or previous employer.

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