The stakes are high in 2020 and a public faux pas can spell the end to a reputation nearly the moment after you press send. News travels nearly instantaneously and one high-profile mistake can open the flood gates permanently. The internet is often unforgiving, and even more-so, it never forgets. Long forgotten tweets or Facebook posts can resurface with a vengeance and the fallout can take years to rebuild a reputation.
This is our weekly series showcasing some winners and losers. Here’s a look at those who handled things right, and those whose blunders made many cringe.
1. Lady Antebellum
The band formerly known as Lady Antebellum changed its name to Lady A, saying it was "regretful and embarrassed" by the term's racist history.
The band is now suing Anita White—a Black artist who says she's used the stage name Lady A for almost 20 years.https://t.co/3y6p0QFnYL
— NPR (@NPR) July 9, 2020
The headline says it all. After being challenged over the racially charged “Lady Antebellum” moniker for years, the band finally relented and changed its name to “Lady A.” While the band received praise after the change, things quickly went down south when they decided to sue. Yes, that’s right. SUE the Black artist who had been performing under the name “Lady A” for decades. So we’ll go ahead and file this under the “Stupidest Things to Do After Doing a Smart Thing” category. Talk about a shift in momentum.
After an initial feel-good call between Lady Antebellum’s camp and Anita White (the original Lady A), things quickly turned sour.
“Their camp is trying to erase me and I’ll have more to say… Trust is important and I no longer trust them,” said White. To complicate the matter, White had never sought to trademark the “Lady A” name, while Lady Antebellum had first filed for a “Lady A” related trademark in 2010. In addition, Anita White sought $10M in a settlement over the name while Lady Antebellum never intended that White would not be able to still perform under “Lady A.” The entire matter is quite complicated. What is not complicated is that a white artist with a racially charged name is now suing a black artist over the rights to use their name. Any goodwill they earned last week is now gone.
The band Lady A — formerly Lady Antebellum — has filed a lawsuit against a Black woman who has performed with the name Lady A for the past 2 decades. https://t.co/YkAk3jEYZQ
— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 9, 2020
Takeaway: It’s rare to see goodwill not only slip away but find its way to the other side of the spectrum. When something like this is done, it becomes immediately clear that Lady A’s name change was entirely self-serving, without any regard for the actual reason initially believed.
2. Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams: I'm sorry for mistreating people throughout my entire life.
Also Ryan Adams: I recorded six new albums while in exile.https://t.co/JqDIjAwXll
— Consequence of Sound (@consequence) July 6, 2020
If there was ever a manual on how to apologize, the first sentence of the first chapter of the first page would say “Be sincere.” There is only one way to make a good apology. You have to feel it and you really have to be sorry. It’s a prerequisite. It’s uncanny how many botched apologies are floating around out there. Often there is some sort of disclaimer or justification attached. “I’m sorry but…” is a classic un-apology. “I’m sorry and also deflection…” is another un-apology.
Some say it’s the bitterest pill to swallow, which is why so many fail at such a seemingly simple task. In a textbook example of how not to apologize, musician Ryan Adams runs the gamut. He’s sorry and he really feels that way, but did not bother apologizing privately to the people who were actually hurt. He’s sorry and he really means it but also he has a new album coming out since he’s been in isolation. Ok. That’s absolutely how not to apologize. Ever.
Takeaway: What else is there to say. An apology comes from sincerity and admission of a mistake. If you don’t actually feel that way, they are never going to turn out right.
1. Lily Eskelsen Garcia
“I double dog dare Donald Trump to sit in a class of 39 sixth graders and breathe that air without any preparation for how we’re going to bring our kids back safely.”
National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia says schools can only reopen if done so safely. pic.twitter.com/d13sVYr5oS
— New Day (@NewDay) July 8, 2020
Any news that comes out in 2020 somehow will not be a surprise at this point. Oh, they discovered life on Mars. Ok. Oh wow, looks like they found Jimmy Hoffa. Ok. It shouldn’t really come as any surprise that there is absolutely no plan whatsoever on how to reopen schools safely in the middle of a pandemic. At this point, most of the news coming out of the oval office seems like bad science fiction. Eventually, fingers crossed, reason will triumph over absurdity and all of the tough talk and showmanship will give way to common sense.
“Here’s what my advice to all parents including you is: Please under no circumstances take medical advice from Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos, especially when it comes to the health of your children.” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen. Somehow there is nothing more satisfying than someone double dog daring Donald Trump to sit in the same classroom packed full of kids with no real precautions in place. The world needs people like Lily Eskelsen Garcia right now and they are becoming more and more visible, as it is clear that we are rudderless in the face of a pandemic that has already killed over 130,000 Americans.
Takeaway: It takes courage to stand in the face of irrationality when the very air that you breathe is filled with it. Taking the high road may seem like a risk, but will only cement a reputation in a positive light.
2. Sylvester Turner
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner thrust himself into the national spotlight with his decision to cancel the contract for the Texas Republican Party to hold its state convention in the city https://t.co/2BK2Hiw2jZ
— CNN (@CNN) July 9, 2020
The complicated decision of canceling the Texas GOP Convention seemed to gain zero traction, even as Houston exceeded 40K coronavirus cases, ICUs at capacity, and and growing bipartisan concern over the safety of the event. One of the reasons why the GOP may not have canceled the convention themselves might have been the contract in place with the Houston First, who owns the Houston Convention Center. If the GOP had canceled, they would have been on the hook for millions of dollars in penalty fees. This is where Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner took it upon himself to cancel the event in the larger interest of public safety.
“The linchpin for me (was) when one of the people on my staff, combined with my sister, who said to me, ‘Mayor, brother, your mom was a maid working at these hotels. And if your mom was alive today working at one of these hotels (would) you as the mayor still allow this convention to go forth and run the risk of infecting your mom?’ ” Sylvester said.
Takeaway: A good reputation is built on both common sense and courage. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made, even when they’re politically heated. If they represent a common cause like the safety of others, instincts should always prevail over politics.