What Ryan Braun Must Do to Be Forgiven

MILWAUKEE ( TheStreet) -- Right now, Ryan Braun is being called a lot of bad things, including "liar" and "cheater" and "cravenly selfish" and "cockroach," and it is safe to say that he deserves every one of those labels.

But Braun is very fortunate, and not just because of his good looks, superior athletic ability and $150 million contract. He is fortunate because he lives in a forgiving country. We forgive nearly everyone.

We forgave the British after the Revolutionary War. After the Civil War, the North forgave the South and the soldiers from the two sides embraced. After World War II, we forgave Germany and Japan.

We forgave Bobby Bragan and Dixie Walker for initially opposing Jackie Robinson's entry into baseball. We forgave football player Michael Vick and actor Charlie Sheen. We forgave and re-elected South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford. We are in the process of forgiving George W. Bush.

It looked like we might forgive former congressman Anthony Weiner, who was doing well in polls as he ran for mayor of New York. But then Weiner admitted on Tuesday that he sent explicit photos to a woman after being forced to resign from Congress for sending explicit photos to women.

So some people are hopeless. Braun doesn't need to be in that group. But he does need to offer more than the ineffective apology he provided on Monday, after agreeing to a 65-game suspension for steroid use, and he needs to do it soon.

Bruce Hicks, CEO of The Alliant Group/Houston, is a veteran of 45 years in public relations and crisis management, as well as a baseball fan and a 19-year volunteer umpire for the Little League in Sugar Land, Texas. He has worked in various industries including airlines, providing crisis management following crashes at Delta ( DAL), Continental and American ( AAMRQ.PK). Another longtime client is Starwood Hotels and Resorts ( HOT).

Hicks said fans will forgive Braun if Braun can "learn from those who came before and come clean and fess up." Braun needs to explain the details of his steroid use, which he has not done, and not just say he made mistakes. And he needs to act quickly. "I don't think he can wait" until he returns to baseball next season, Hicks said. Also, Braun should apologize to Dino Laurenzi, the urine sample collector falsely accused of mishandling Braun's October 2011 drug test.

Telling the whole truth is paramount. "The fans will forgive Braun if he comes clean," Hicks said. "Look at the difference between (Yankee pitcher) Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds," he said. Pettitte admitted to steroid use and is beloved. Bonds and Clemens went to court to argue that they did not use. They won there, but they lost in the court of public opinion.

In his media training on crisis management for corporations, which he has offered to thousands of executives around the world, Hicks shows a tape of Connie Chung's 2001 interview of former California Congressman Gary Condit, suspected at the time of of murdering his intern, Chandra Levy. Condit was later exonerated.

As Braun did on Monday, Condit said he was not perfect. But that is not enough. "Condit said seven times, 'I'm not a perfect man,'" Hicks said. "But it sounded so trite. He wouldn't answer questions about whether he had an affair -- instead he said, 'I've made mistakes' and 'I'm not perfect.' He should have said 'yes, I did have an affair.'"

Former baseball star Pete Rose is another example of someone whose apology -- for betting on baseball -- failed, in his case because it came too late. "Pete Rose is one of the saddest cases in baseball," Hicks said. "He waited too long."

Another failed apology was offered by Lance Armstrong, who appeared on Oprah Winfrey's TV show in January and admitted to using steroids. Afterward, some investigators said he did not tell the complete truth. "Armstrong was not forgiven," Hicks said. "It might have worked earlier, but he waited way too long and he didn't come clean."

Hicks said Braun should carefully select the media forum for his apology. "He doesn't want to be open to criticism for being too selective," Hicks said. "He has to do it with someone who has a strong audience and who will do a fair interview, not someone who caters to him.

"I wouldn't go outside the industry," he said. "He should stick with baseball, that's his audience. But he needs to have somebody who will call him on it if he starts to waffle."

In advising airlines on how to handle crashes, Hicks said, "I advise them to be very candid, to have as transparent a process as possible, and to first and foremost take care of the victims and the victims' families, which the law requires. They generally do a good job of that.

"I also advise my clients not just hand it off" to the National Labor Relations Board, he said. "Airlines have employees and passengers and people who depend on them. They have to have their own voice."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C. He is the author of "Carl Furillo: Brooklyn Dodgers All-Star."

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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