Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mark McGwire – too little too late?

By: Kristen Paquet, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Did Mark McGwire’s recent admission of steroid use help him or hurt him? In a strategic move, McGwire finally announced what most people already suspected or knew – that he used steroids during the 1998 baseball season when he made history by hitting a record-breaking 70 homeruns in one season.

But did he do the right thing or make things worse? Did he ruin or help his image? There are few things to consider:

1. Timing: This recent admission has many people wondering what took so long. There weren’t too many people out there that didn’t at the very least question McGwire’s possible use of performance enhancing drugs. So why not admit it then? Or during his testimony at the congressional hearings in 2005? Why be honest about the steroid use now? Well, that leads to the second point:

2. What outcome is McGwire looking for? Did McGwire do it because he needed to come clean with his family friends and fans? Maybe the guilt he felt finally caught up with him. Or was it because he was hoping that the 5th time on the ballot to Cooperstown would be the charm if he did? Not to mention he is just a few weeks away from a new gig as the Cardinals’ hitting coach, putting him once again in the spotlight.

As a PR professional, I believe that McGwire did the right thing by admitting steroid use, but he should have done it a lot sooner instead of going into hiding (much like some other famous sports star we all know). I would have recommended that he face the facts and come clean. Yes, it is going to be painful, but he would have come out of this situation on a much more positive note 10 plus years ago. In fact, there are several examples of sports stars that admitted to some form of performance enhancing drug use and suffered few consequences such as Andy Pettitte and Jason Giambi. And while McGwire admitting things now will lead to some level of forgiveness, it will (and already has) led to much speculation as to his motives for doing so (see #2 above).

Whatever the reasons, McGwire has more to do than impress his new boss at the Cardinals. Rebuilding his image and regaining trust with his fans is a task he needs to take on as well.

So what do you think? Did McGwire’s admission of steroid use help or hurt his image? I’d like to get your thoughts.

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