New York Yankees infielder Alex Rodriguez was finally deemed healthy enough to play after a long stint on the disabled list. But before he could even step foot on the field for Monday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox, A-Rod was suspended through the end of the 2014 season by Major League Baseball (MLB) for his admitted use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Despite the suspension, Rodriguez was allowed to play Monday and will continue to do so while he appeals the punishment.
Rodriguez held a press conference before Monday night’s game to discuss his controversial return. While openness and transparency typically help with crisis management, the media event left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans and members of the press. Rodriguez didn’t really have anything new to say and his statements came across to many as canned and insincere. While sticking to core messaging is an important part of any crisis PR response, authenticity plays a bit part in appearing credible.

During the press conference Rodriguez stated, “I want to express to you guys and the fans of baseball that the last seven months have been a nightmare. It’s probably been the worst time of my life…I’m fighting for my life. I have to defend myself. If I don’t defend myself, no one else will.”

That didn’t play well with many, who found it galling that the highest paid player in baseball, (someone who made the choice to break the rules by taking banned substances), was painting himself as a tormented victim.

A-Rod’s public relations issues this week are far from the first of A-Rod’s image battles. He has struggled throughout his PED controversy with inconsistent messaging and erratic attitudes toward the press, the league and even his team. A-Rod has sometimes been willing to comment on the hot topic; other times he has chosen to clam up and attempt to ignore the questions.  When he has gone on the record the MLB star has bounced back and forth from contrite and approachable to downright defiant and aggressive, which has complicated A-Rod’s PR problems.

A-Rod’s crisis PR team would be well-advised to nail down solid positioning and consistent messaging. Even if the all-star eventually succeeds in his battles against the league, and in the meantime while he continues playing, the fans and greater public will be tough to win over without consistent and effective crisis communications.