Blink your eyes in 2020 and the chances are you probably will miss an entire news cycle. Not only does the news end up on your computer or phone screen before it broadcasts over news networks, but the conversations surrounding the news are immediate and often unforgiving. With more people home and consuming content like never before, the stakes are high and the decisions made today can have a lasting impact on your reputation tomorrow.
In our new series of Reputation Winners and Losers we look at those who are rising to the occasion and others who are blundering.
1. Greg Glassman/ CrossFit
In a series of disastrous insensitive tweets and recorded audio, CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman stepped down from his position at the helm of the company. Since the controversy broke, Reebok, affiliate gyms, and many athletes have cut ties with the brand.
Shortly before the tweet, Glassman made insensitive remarks surrounding the death of George Floyd.
Days before resigning, CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman told gym owners on a video call he wasn't mourning George Floyd.
— CNN International (@cnni) June 11, 2020
Glassman went on to apologize and make this statement on the CrossFit website.
Takeaways: A reputation and brand can be heavily damaged, sometimes permanently, in a matter of moments. It never pays to joke about important and sensitive issues, even if no harm was intended. There is simply no room for bigotry or racism. Often a good reputation is a reflection of the actions taken over the course of years that build trust and credibility among the people you interact with. These positive actions serve as the cornerstones of reputation building. In one insensitive tweet or call, the foundation can come crashing down swiftly – especially for a company that has grown largely due to the sense of identity associated with the brand.
2. The New York Times
The New York times walked back a published Op-Ed from last week from Senator, Tom Cotton titled “Send In The Troops.” In the article, Cotton suggests the US military as an option to be used against its own citizens, citing the Insurrection Act of 1807. “One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers,” wrote Cotton.
The Times initially defended the article and Op-Ed editor James Bennet originally stated “The New York Times op-ed space is designed to showcase countervailing ideas and thoughts; Cotton is a big shot with presidential ambitions, so his thoughts ‘may very well become government policy, which means it demands interrogation.” This was met with outrage among fellow journalists , The New York Times Staff, and The News Guild of New York.
The Guild statement – which I helped draft with many, many others – fully recognizes that the op-ed desk has a responsibility to publish a diverse array of opinions, many of which people may find disagreeable! Cotton's op-ed, however, clearly crosses a line. https://t.co/D1vL0gX4in
— Jazmine Hughes (@jazzedloon) June 4, 2020
With the New York Times’ staff in nearly unanimous dissent and their founding principles in question, James Bennet has resigned.
James Bennet, the editorial page editor of The New York Times, has resigned after a controversy over an Op-Ed by Senator Tom Cotton that called for military force against protesters in American cities https://t.co/Tt6PwmowZv
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 7, 2020
Takeaways: When considering your reputation within a company, actions should align with the core values and principles upon which the company operates. If these are at odds, the match is already lit and the powder keg is near.
1. Michael Jordan/Jordan Brand
Black lives matter. This isn't a controversial statement. We are you. We are a family. We are a community. pic.twitter.com/cGH8bJl1GQ
— Jordan (@Jumpman23) June 5, 2020
In an overwhelming display of solidarity and generosity, Michael Jordan and Jordan Brand committed $100 million dollars over the next ten years “to organizations dedicated to ensuring racial equality, social justice, and greater access to education.” This comes on the heels of Jordan’s incredibly successful and candid documentary, “The Last Dance”, where at times the series examined the shortcomings of Jordan, which included not doing enough for the African American community during the peak of his super-stardom in the 90s.
Takeaways: Our celebrities are often put in difficult positions of social leadership. Although this role isn’t asked for, it’s included in the package of superstardom. Rising to the occasion to support a cause that crosses the divide between celebrity and humanity is an emphatic win.
2. Alexis Ohanian/ Reddit
View this post on Instagram
I co-founded @reddit 15 years ago to help people find community and a sense of belonging. It is long overdue to do the right thing. I’m doing this for me, for my family, and for my country. I’m saying this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: What did you do? I have resigned as a member of the reddit board, I have urged them to fill my seat with a black candidate, and I will use future gains on my Reddit stock to serve the black community, chiefly to curb racial hate, and I’m starting with a pledge of $1M to @kaepernick7’s @yourrightscamp I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now. To everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: do not stop.
This week also saw Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resign from his board position in order to push for more diversity, while asking for his position to be replaced by an African American. Reddit followed through earlier this week and announced Michael Seibel, who co-founded Twitch, would be replacing Ohanian on the board.
“I want to thank Steve, Alexis, and the entire Reddit board for this opportunity. I’ve known Steve and Alexis since 2007 and have been a Reddit user ever since,” Seibel said. “Over this period of time I’ve watched Reddit become part of the core fabric of the internet and I’m excited to help provide advice and guidance as Reddit continues to grow and tackle the challenges of bringing community and belonging to a broader audience.”
Takeaways: It’s a difficult process to turn the lens on yourself. It’s an even harder task to act upon what you discover in that process. Reputations can be made or broken with singular, character-defining events.