How fitting is it that we are now hearing “The Lochte Monster” as a reference to defamed U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte who bared his soul today in his statement when he said, “It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in foreign country, with a language barrier and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave.”
Really? Who does that?
Looking at it from a crisis management perspective, this apology, clearly not written by Mr. Lochte, only serves to make this nightmare worse than the original incident. It is hollow and does not accomplish what a thoughtful statement should – own up to the bad deed, show remorse and discuss how you are going to right the situation.
A few rules of thumb about crisis management:
Immediate Timing: Crises have a life of their own and can quickly spin out of control. They create their own news cycle fueled and accelerated by social media, which is happening right now with Mr. Lochte’s so called “apology.” Lochte should have not waited so long to address this issue himself, despite what he says about waiting to make sure the legal matters were settled and his friends were back in the U.S.
Format: Hiding behind a post on social media is not only cowardly, but only serves to feed the news beast. Mr. Lochte owes it to his teammates, the Olympians still competing, his country and the country of Brazil to issue his apology in front of cameras, the same way he cried wolf with The Today Show.
Interview: Mr. Lochte should also consider a one on one interview to talk about this incident. It will probably be the toughest interview he has done in his life, but by being open, it will go a long way to starting the process of rebuilding his image and trust with his teammates, sponsors and fans.
Transparency: Mr. Lochte’s words were vague and did not address the true issues at hand. His statement showed no remorse to speak of and were arrogant at best. Even Tiger Woods, in his darkest moment after his personal revelations were made public, had the fortitude to hold a press conference, and face the media. Granted, Woods’ journey back continues, but that was a turning point for putting his past behind him.
Do Something: There are many, judging by the tone of the comments to Mr. Lochte’s statement, that would prefer him to climb into a black hole. However, Lochte could put his lessons learned to work by doing something positive – whether this is mentoring up-and-coming athletes, or setting up scholarships or a similar act that helps aspiring athletes.
It is not the first time a celebrated athlete has behaved badly. There will be many more after him. However, this is a very very sad tale indeed and we all deserve better.