How the U.S. Men’s Soccer Captain, 23, Delivered a Pitch-Perfect Response

As PR pros know well, communicating isn’t difficult, until it is.

Even the media-trained make mistakes, say things they regret, forget a key talking point, let a journalist’s question, or something else, distract them.

Press conferences sometimes are especially difficult. Communicators urge executives that ignoring everything but the questioner is the best route. Still, it's a form of public speaking. Something reminds us that not only are dozens of reporters listening, it’s possible, through digital technology, that our words will make their way around the world, at light speed.

There are natural communicators, of course. Still, few should skip training.

Regarding training and natural communicators, PR pros could do much worse in their next media-prep session than playing this short video from yesterday’s World Cup news conference.

Cool under fire

Previewing today’s (Nov. 29) US-Iran match, which already is a highly charged affair, an Iranian journalist whacked US Men’s National Soccer Team captain Tyler Adams for his pronunciation of Iran.

“You say you support the Iranian people, but you’re pronouncing our country’s name wrong,” the reporter says, sounding cold. “Our country is named eee-rahn, not I-ran.”

Next, without pausing, the reporter asks, “Are you OK to be representing a country that has so much discrimination against Black people in its own borders?”

Adams, 23, who plays professionally for Leeds United Football Club in England, responds with grace, class and composure. Apart from his soccer prowess, Adams makes clear why his teammates elected him captain.

As you will see in the video, Adams begins with a simple, direct and brief apology for his pronunciation of Iran. If Adams has a media trainer, possibly in Leeds, she couldn’t have scripted it better.


First, Adams, like his questioner, moves without pause, addressing the discrimination question. It’s a politic answer, but Adams makes it more effective when he makes it his own.

“There’s discrimination everywhere you go” Adams says, adding, “one thing I’ve learned, especially from living abroad for the past years and having to fit in in different cultures, is that in the U.S. we are continuing to make progress every single day.”

In addition, Adams mentions he grew up in a white family and his “obviously…African-American heritage.” As such, he’s experienced fitting in with different cultures.

Not a bad response. Nitpicking, perhaps a business executive or celebrity should avoid centering an answer on himself. Sometimes it’s a deflection tool.

On the other hand, Adams didn’t use his personal elements for deflection.

Moreover, some media trainers believe there’s room for including personal touches in a response, as Adams did deftly.

A Notch Above

Yet his conclusion is where Adams’s answer is most adept. He mentions previous themes.

Education, he says, is key. It’s “super important” and helps pave the road toward tolerance and acceptance.

“Through education [we make progress]…like you just educated me now on the pronunciation of your country…it’s a process. As long as you see progress, that’s the most important thing.”

Was it a perfect response? Darned close.

Seth Arenstein is editor of PRNEWS and Crisis Insider. Follow him @skarenstein