For those who were on Twitter this morning, there were two earthquakes today. One, literally. One, figuratively. The literal, of course, was the 4.7 earthquake in California. The figurative? Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was arrested for DUI.
Irsay is quite the figure on Twitter. Last year, I wrote a piece entitled, “He’s Got a Twitter Handle and He’s Not Afraid To Use It“. In it I stated,
Random song lyrics. Running engaging fan-contests. Providing injury updates on the Colts. As someone who prefers Twitter lists over Twitter following, I’m reluctant to say he’s a ‘must-follow’ since I don’t follow him myself. But, he is definitely a must-list.
Irsay gets Twitter. He gets the power of it as a communication tool with fans. Today, after his DUI arrest, its power came back to bite him.[tweet https://twitter.com/ScottJSander/status/445528077561368576 align=’center’] [tweet https://twitter.com/AnthonyDiMoro/status/445562698223595520 align=’center’] [tweet https://twitter.com/dkaplanSBJ/status/445555013964681217 align=’center’] [tweet https://twitter.com/StevePoliti/status/445574397265711104 align=’center’] [tweet https://twitter.com/TheDalyPlanet/status/445561107910905856 align=’center’]
That last one, given Irsay’s proficiency for Twitter, does bear repeating. Silly as it sounds, why didn’t he make a different choice? It’s easy for those of us on the outside to judge. Even as I would read his tweets, he just seemed out there at times. Maybe there was a reason to the madness.[tweet https://twitter.com/bkravitz/status/445568343114649602 align=’center’]
Like many in sports today, when faced with a public relations nightmare such as this, sports figures who are on Twitter have a choice whether to shirk from the spotlight or face the PR problem head on.[tweet https://twitter.com/JimIrsay/status/445653760891576320 align=’center’]
When it comes to PR nightmares or crisis management, I defer to my friend and social media colleague, Chris Syme for guidance. In her post, “Coach Ricky Ray and the Model of a Public Apology“. Chris lists five keys for addressing the incident, one of which is,
When the behavior is seen in public, apologize to the public.
Irsay has done the first one on the public platform he knows best: Twitter. The rest of the story is yet to be decided. It’s clear from reading stories and tweets today that Irsay has been battling his demons for awhile. Maybe a look-back at this past tweets should have indicated as such. It’s hard to say. And, it’s easy to judge.
I’m not letting him off easy. He was driving under the influence thereby putting the public in danger. Anyone who gets behind the wheel in that condition puts the public in danger. As a mom of three kids, two of whom drive, it angers me when people do it. But, there’s always more to what people do than just what you see on the surface. In my 2013 post I mentioned above, I said this:
No idea of the type of person he is in real-life but he does understand the valuable tool that social media/Twitter can be, especially for an owner.
We don’t “know” anyone on social media. On Facebook and Twitter, it’s hard to know anyone in sports with mere words alone. You have to spend time with them face-to-face and have conversations to really know someone. Hard to do that through tweets.
For as entertaining as Irsay’s tweets could be, they only shrouded who he was on the inside. He understood the power of Twitter before. If he hasn’t yet, he’s understanding it even more now.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I hesitated to write anything on Jim Irsay today. Every sports outlet has covered it in some way, shape or form today. So, what do I have to say that will be anything different?
If nothing else, let this be a challenge to all of us. We don’t KNOW anyone who is on Twitter. We think we do, but we really don’t. Twitter does provide a peek into the lives of public sports figures. Beyond that, our knowledge of a person is minimal. Before we judge someone on Twitter, more knowledge is necessary. I hope that we all step back a bit before we judge someone based on who they show themselves to be on Twitter. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes 140 characters tells you a lot and sometimes, very little.
Did I know Jim Irsay had a problem? Not really. You hear things or read them on Twitter, but you just don’t know. I hope this is his wake-up call. I hope this is a wake-up call for anyone else in this type of situation.
I don’t just pray Jim Irsay gets the help he needs.
I pray he accepts and embraces it.
>>> RECOMMENDED READ: “Jim Irsay fighting for his life, needs help” from the Indy Star’s, Bob Kravitz