The case against Tom Brady took a turn for the worse on Tuesday, with the NFL denying an appeal to his four-game suspension in relation to "Deflategate"—the controversy stemming from accusations that the New England Patriots tampered with footballs used in last year's AFC Championship Game.
The NFL released a 20-page report detailing its reasons for denying Brady's appeal, and one major point stood out: Brady had the cell phone he used during the Deflategate time period destroyed just prior to his initial talk with investigators, according to the league. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that new information showed Brady "sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the underlying scheme to alter the football" by destroying the phone, which contained more than 10,000 text messages.
The revelation that Brady destroyed potential evidence is bad optics for the quarterback, to say the least. Innocent people don't typically need to destroy their cell phones.
On Wednesday, Brady took to Facebook, issuing a 500-word statement telling his side of the story. The post is strong and detailed, and it counters the narrative that Brady purposely obfuscated the league's investigation. Let's take a look at four specific lessons PR pros can learn from Brady's latest reputation management move.
- Don't waste time. Brady waited less than a day before responding to the league's denial of his appeal. By posting in the morning, he ensured that he would dominate the day's news cycle and get his message out at the same time that his opponents were crafting more spin and attacks against him.
- Go directly to your supporters. Before he gave a press conference or appeared on a TV show, Brady took his message to Facebook, where his ardent fans were sure to be find his response. Anyone with a Facebook account (so, really, everyone) can read his post in full.
- Distill your message. The second sentence of Brady's Facebook post reads: "I did nothing wrong, and no one in the Patriots organization did either." That's a pretty clear statement, and it sets the tone for the entire piece. It also sounds like it's been vetted by his legal team, and it encompasses a lot.
- Be specific. Brady is being accused of destroying evidence, and he didn't avoid that allegation. You can't win in the court of public opinion if you avoid the specific issues and charges against you.
Follow Brian Greene on Twitter: @bw_greene