Vijay Singh brought his roadshow to Gotham last week, having a
fan removed from the gallery of the Buick Classic and raising the
ire of the New York tabloids. With the British Open only a couple
of weeks away and the Fleet Street beastie boys already
sharpening their knives, SI contacted three leading crisis
management experts for their take on Singh's predicament. The
ALLAN MAYER, head of entertainment practice at Sitrick and
Company, in L.A., has represented R. Kelly, Tommy Lee and Halle
HOWARD J. RUBENSTEIN, president of Rubenstein Associates in New
York, has represented Mike Tyson, Marv Albert, Donald Trump and
Kathie Lee Gifford.
ERIC DEZENHALL, co-founder of Nichols Dezenhall Communications in
Washington, D.C., declines to reveal his clients' names, but says
that he has represented "business tycoons, celebrities and
June 29, 2003
RUBENSTEIN: "I've had the Yankees for clients for 19 years, and
when an athlete is at the center of this kind of firestorm the
emotional impact can wear him down no matter how physically
strong he is. You look at how Vijay faded at the U.S. Open. Maybe
it had all caught up with him."
DEZENHALL: "Why has Sammy Sosa been largely forgiven and Vijay
has not? Two reasons: Sosa has no history of bad behavior,
whereas Vijay had that cheating allegation in his past that he
has never dealt with in a straightforward way. Second, Sosa is
basically a likable guy. He has worked hard to cultivate that
image. Vijay has built up none of that goodwill."
MAYER: "From this point forward, his strategy has to be to keep
himself out of compromising situations. Don't make things worse
than they already are. Consider the incident with the heckler at
the U.S. Open--it's ludicrous to try to make up a self-serving
story [that he was unaware of the disturbance or the man's
ejection despite having appeared to call for it] when 10,000
people saw what happened."
RUBENSTEIN: "Some athletes do very well playing the villain.
Being the bad guy was part of Tyson's career strategy. But Vijay
isn't a boxer and there's no upside in it for him. I would
recommend that Vijay send Annika a note saying, 'I'm sorry for
any unpleasantness that I may have caused you during a very
difficult time.' Don't mention it publicly. Annika will do that
for you. There is no statute of limitations on apologizing, and
that would satisfy a lot of people who have called for his head.
Then he should issue a public statement: 'I've been thinking
about what I said, I've changed my mind, and I'm sorry to all of
those whom I offended.' Then court a couple of news outlets for
sit-down interviews, and after that refuse all comment."
MAYER: "The American public is very forgiving if you're straight
with them. If you say, 'I was a horse's ass and I'm sorry,'
they'll buy that. Where you get into trouble is with a carefully
weaseled statement like, 'If my comments caused any offense, that
was not my intention, etc., etc.' Short of a road-to-Damascus
conversion, people aren't going to buy contrition from Vijay."
DEZENHALL: "My sense is that every time Vijay opens his mouth, a
bomb goes off. Certain people are radioactive by nature, and he
seems to be one of them. My advice is for him to dig a hole and
disappear. Don't say another word to anybody about anything. It's
not a sexy solution, but for him, the best thing to do is shut up
and play golf."