Steinberg: Braun has work to do

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Consider the curious case of Ryan Braun, 2011 National League Most Valuable Player.

He was found to have violated Major League Baseball's drug policy by testing positive for high levels of testosterone last year. The league disciplined him by suspending him for the first 50 games of this season.

An arbitrator ruled that he was not guilty because the testing company did not follow protocol when Braun's test results weren't sent on the same day the test took place. But MLB still believes he is guilty and plans an appeal.

Now what does he do to clear his reputation?

The repetitive news cycle which has developed lately has a major impact on shaping public opinion. Once a piece of film or information has run endlessly on CNN, ESPN, on the Internet web sites, talk radio and multiple outlets it creates a sometimes distorted impression which may be indelible.

When the tape of the LAPD beating of Rodney King was shown endlessly, a viewer who had seen it 50 times might believe that as opposed to one unfortunate and criminal incident, the LAPD beats blacks 24/7.

When Ryan Leaf was filmed yelling at a reporter in a locker room (which happens commonly and generally leads to a quiet apology) it was shown ad nauseam. Football fans who had viewed that incident multiple times were left with the point of view that Leaf did not simply have a bad moment — he is abusive and out of control every day.

When Howard Dean raised his voice during a concession speech in Iowa in 2004, the film clip went viral — after repeat viewings voters did not feel he had an elevated moment — they felt he was intemperate and un-presidential permanently.

Braun was on top of the baseball world after a sterling season and playoffs resulting in the league's highest honor. He is handsome and articulate and plays with reckless abandon. He gave a passionate defense in his press conference when he pointed out that his strength and speed had not improved since the alleged substance abuse and that he had tested negative multiple times. But talk radio and other media are still debating his guilt or innocence since he released his statement. He continues to have a crisis of credibility and reputation. Every time his name and performance enhancing substances are mentioned together it reinforces the linkage with his name and image.

I have helped athletes through crisis for the last 40 years and have recently been dealing with one of my own. The key to crisis management designed to minimize continuing and permanent damage is to follow a plan. When a celebrity is involved or accused of involvement in wrongdoing they should follow these steps:

*Comprehensively gather all of the facts surrounding the incident so as to be able to stay consistent and not ignore damaging facts.

*Move with speed to issue a statement — or the repetitive news cycle will compound the impact and more scrutiny.

*State the standard of proper behavior and how the individual has fallen short, "getting behind the wheel with any alcohol in my system was wrong."

*Take responsibility and accountability for the action without blaming others.

*Apologize to those relevant constituencies who may have been especially harmed. "I apologize to the owner, coaches, players and fans."

*State an understanding that part of the price of celebrity is being held to a high standard of behavior because of the role modeling impact.

*State the steps being undertaken to prevent a recurrence.

*Keep a lower profile for the time being.

*Perform your craft or talent at the highest level possible. Then it is possible to move on.

The American people seem to savor the fall of the high and mighty, but they also love a good comeback story.

LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. His column appears weekly. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports or blog.steinbergsports.com.

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