Dear Reeves Nelson,
I read your response to the Sports Illustrated article which prominently featured you being a jackass (even by Los Angeles standards) to a number of people and playing a big role in destroying the most storied program in college basketball (other than Indiana). I even wrote a piece for this very blog stating that the incidents revealed in the article were overblown and didn’t say anything most people didn’t already know.
I feel compelled to address you directly since this “response” is clearly motivated by your desire to be selected in the 2o12 NBA Draft and to repair your repuation, which was damaged long before the article was published. And in the best tradition of condescending blog-writing, I have a bit of advice as well.
Your first problem is that no one believes the “that didn’t happen” and “my comments were taken out of context” defense. It has been used so many times those words have lost all meaning in the public’s eyes. If it didn’t work for Bill Clinton, it won’t work for you. I’m sure your agent or representative (or whoever) told you to say something along those lines, and I’m sure you believe what you said. George Costanza knew what he was talking about. But spouting meaningless phrases is best left to golfers and Bill Belichick.
To be specific, here is your quote in the article purportedly regarding the various incidents described therein:
“‘On all that stuff, I have no trouble admitting that I lost control of my emotions sometimes. I take responsibility for my actions. I’m really just trying to learn from the mistakes I made on all levels.”
Not a bad thing to say after the author of the original piece listed the things you did back to you. But that’s apparently not when you said that.
In your response to the article, you stated you made that statement “right at the beginning of the conversation and I was not asked — I had no idea what he was going to put in the article at that point. I was speaking on the actual factual reasons why I was dismissed from the team.”
Why would you say that right off the bat when you’re interviewing with a guy writing an article about UCLA and your dismissal from the team? Admitting that you said that without knowing exactly what you were saying it about is idiotic and insulting to people who can read and remember information.
It is never a good idea to make yourself look immediately defensive about your past before anyone you’re talking to has even mentioned your past. It makes you seem even more guilty. I’m thinking your agent fed you a line to repeat and you were nervous so you jumped the gun and spat it out before the interview even got going. Regardless, speaking to the press without thinking is probably not a trait NBA teams will be interested in. Especially when the words you speak actually make you look worse to anyone who is paying attention.
Also, the article was about why you were dismissed from the team. Though part of George Dohrmann’s thesis was how Ben Howland – your former coach – was not strict enough with his discipline, the article also made it clear that you went much too far on all levels while at UCLA and essentially forced the coach’s hand. To admit that you “lost control of your emotions sometimes” before anyone mentioned any specific times is essentially admitting that you’re guilty and would rather not get specific in the interview. That does nothing to help your image at all.
You have to understand admitting you made mistakes in a general sense, not ennumerating them, and then denying the specifics of a very detailed article featuring you, is an invitation to anyone you have ever slighted or treated badly even a little to open up and dump on you. In all your time at UCLA, I’m willing to bet you were an ass to at least a few people whether or not the allegations in the article are true.
A reporter, especially one who won a Pulitzer Prize, who has their article questioned will find those people. And if not them, then bloggers will. However it happens, it’s all over for you the minute they open their mouths because one true allegation adds credibility to the unproven ones in the eyes of people who don’t know you. That’s just life.
Also, saying you have text messages and phone calls from former teammates expressing their outrage at the article is missing the point entirely. Not because the events described didn’t necessarily happen but because no one is going to buy you as a victim of a mean reporter who had an agenda. Public relations problems like this cannot be flipped around that easily when everyone knows you weren’t exactly a model citizen while you played for UCLA.
Having your lawyer call a sports radio station to defend you is a great idea if you want to look either too dumb to speak for yourself or like you’re trying to hide something or get off on a technicality. This is especially true when your attorney says that the author of the article just wants to ruin your reputation as though he could have no other motivations.
The public is cynical about attorneys and always has been. It’s a good idea to hire one, but not a good idea to hire one, let him speak for you as though you’re completely innocent and victimized, and yet not file an actual legal claim against Sports Illustrated and George Dohrmann. That’s just shady.
The best thing you can do is stay the hell out of the press. It might be ugly to read those things in Sports Illustrated, but you’re only doing more damage when you open your mouth and don’t think about what you’re saying. Keep your head down, prepare for draft workouts and work on your interview skills. You are actually a pretty good player and NBA teams are obviously willing to put up with a few “different” personalities on their teams.
They will not, however, tolerate guys who miss flights and clearly don’t care. And if you happen to play for a respected coach, you’re not going to get a second chance if you’re insubordinate again. These are facts from your time at UCLA that you have not denied and have yet to address specifically in the context of this controversy. A few anecdotes from third-party sources or whoever aren’t really meaningful to NBA scouts and executives, but the stuff that actually did get you kicked off the team is.
But the worst mistake you’ve made is attempting to address this situation at all. If one can learn anything from the most successful professional athletes who manage to maintain good public images, it is that they never say anything of interest to the press. Saying something along the lines of “I realize I blew a huge opportunity at UCLA and I have to atone for that and move on with my life” would have made a lot of sense and made you seem mature. Hammer that theme home and don’t say anything else. Instead, you basically admitted to being immature and were unclear on whether you had learned your lesson or not.
As an NBA prospect, you’re going to be dealing with the media more and more. People will actually listen to what you say and not give you the benefit of the doubt. They aren’t your parents. Please stop treating people like idiots because it just enhances your already bad repuation. Told you I’d be condescending. Thank you for your time.
McD – Rumors and Rants