The Kory Sheets Scandal: PR & Holding Yourself To A Higher Standard

This was a column I wrote that ran recently. The Kory Sheets issue is dead and gone, as I predicted it would be as soon as he opened up about it. That’s the way these things work. But the main message of this column is applicable to all of us – be open, transparent, and above all else, hold yourself to the highest standard….

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Recently on CBC Saskatchewan’s ‘Blue Sky’ radio show (which is awesome, FYI), host Garth Materie asked whether or not we should hold athletes and public figures to a higher standard. He had opened the dialogue in the wake of the news that Saskatchewan Roughrider tailback Kory Sheets had been charged with domestic violence in a Florida courtroom, back in January 2013.

The news broke as Sheets was in Saskatoon for the Rider’s training, resplendent with gory details over Sheets’ female companions “busted lip” and a juicy mug shot.

I joined Garth for a chat, telling him what I tell all my public relations clients: if you want to be famous, you don’t get to pick and choose when you are famous. This means taking the public love with the hate, and managing that appropriately. That is one of the many rules of PR – I don’t make them, but I sure know what happens when they get broken.

You may label this elevated scrutiny for public figures a “higher standard”, but what it really means is that the public figure must hold him or her self to a higher standard, lest you befall a scandal like Sheets. You may also argue that Sheets just wants to play football – why should his dirty laundry be any more public than the average truck driver, plumber or nurse? The answer is simple – because CFL football players – especially in Saskatchewan, for heaven’s sake – are public figures. If I say the name ‘Kory Sheets’, the majority of you are going to know who he is. An unsettling majority of you will be able to rattle off five years of his stats, his birthdate and his blood-type. So yeah, his mug shot is kinda going to be of interest.

See how this works?

Just like last week’s column, where I (tried, anyway) to point out that those who enter public office will face scrutiny over their choices and beliefs, a similar rule applies to public figures, including athletes. This will be amplified by the market and demographic – would the same story about a Toronto Argonaut make a ripple in the Centre of the Universe? No, probably not. Those who choose to become Saskatchewan Roughrider’s must know that they will face more analysis than those in other markets. This equals awesome home games, the best fans in the world, and a whole bunch of questions to answer when you a bust a woman’s lip.

The Saskatchewan Roughrider’s made a rather amateur PR blunder when the story broke, naively indicating issuing a short statement about facts and responsibility and that “in fairness to everyone involved with this situation, the Saskatchewan Roughrider Football Club will have no further comment on this matter.” Whoops – that won’t do now will it (that’s PR rule #18, give or take a few). Telling people you’re not going to talk about something is going to have the exact opposite affect you want it to, especially the media, compounded by the rabid nature of Rider fans.

That was Monday.

On Tuesday Sheets strode onto the field and directly up to the larger than normal media throng (see: last paragraph) and answered every last question asked of him. He was “embarassed”, “not proud” and a whole bunch of other contrite attributes. He went into detail about what he learned in the domestic violence classes he was required to take as part of his sentence, completion of which resulted in in the charges being dismissed.

And with that open and honest transparency, coupled with Rider GM Brendan Taman hastily adding his comments (as opposed to “no further comments”) on Sheets being on his “final strike” – POOF! – the story magically disappeared.

See how that works?

Here’s hoping Sheets, age 28, has gleaned from this experience a whole bunch of reasons to hold himself to a higher standard.

The Sex Scene: Revenge of The Clear Conscience

Via CBC.ca:

“A Saskatoon police officer who had sex with a member of the public while he was on duty, has been suspended for 30 days and demoted.

The officer, Cst. Collin Reddekopp, was the subject of an investigation by Saskatchewan’s Public Complaints Commission, which oversees local municipal police departments.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” Saskatoon’s chief of police, Clive Weighill, told CBC News when asked to provide more information about the case.

“Officer meets girl. Officer has affair. Officer has sexual encounter one day on duty,” Weighill explained.

According to Weighill, the officer met the woman in April when he was assigned to investigate her concerns about receiving a number of annoying telephone calls.

Weighill said that after dealing with the woman’s case, Reddekopp started a relationship with her.

The woman filed a formal complaint after she and Reddekopp stopped seeing each other.

The woman told investigators that she and the officer had sex while he was on duty.

Weighill said the officer admitted to the indiscretion, and a GPS unit in his patrol car confirmed his location on the day in question.

“He was suspended without pay for 30 days, and he was reduced in rank,” Weighill said. “He was a first-class constable and he’s reduced down to second-class, for one year.”

So, Ms Moralty decided to clear her conscience – and coincidentally, publicly and professionally humiliate her former lover – “after (they) stopped seeing each other.” Having sex once with an on-duty police was perfectly unremarkable for eighteen months – but man, does it ever weigh on the mind of a woman scorned.

And then there’s the small matter of the fact that the only reason the CBC has this story, inclusive of the police officer’s name, is because “someone” from the general public leaked the story to them. The Ceeb used their professional discretion to run the story – its a debatable decision, but it totally theirs to make once the info is in their possession.

Let’s be clear – there’s no way Officer Sexy Reddekopp should have been bangin’ during his shift – even if it was just once. It was a poor judgment call - he’s got better things to do, protecting the public and all, and something bad could have happened.

But it didn’t. Regardless, while the rules were broken, this “first-class constable” did not deserve to be publicly humiliated, not without his partner-in-crime being punished and humiliated too. Instead, his victim accomplice got pissed, and then got hella-even, just because she could.