On Friday, March 1, San Francisco Giants president and chief executive officer Larry Baer was seen on video courtesy of TMZ having an argument, and then a physical altercation, with his wife Pam. In the video, he is seen attempting to forcibly take back his cell phone from his wife, prompting her to fall out of her chair to the ground.
It was a humiliating, somewhat frightening incident, and it was announced March 4 that he will take a leave of absence from the Giants.
People do and say idiotic things all the time. But when these transgressions are caught on video, it goes beyond mere public speculation as the public is able, to a degree, to actually feel what happens. Thus, dire consequences tend to follow as TMZ has demonstrated in the cases of former NFL running back Ray Rice, Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt, and now Baer.
Here is what perplexed me: From the moment it happened until the team announced Baer’s leave of absence, where was any semblance of crisis expertise in helping Larry Baer navigate his PR nightmare?
Let’s take a look at Baer’s first statement to the media following the incident issued Friday:
“My wife and I had an unfortunate public argument related to a family member, and she had an injured foot and she fell off her chair in the course of the argument. The matter is resolved. It was a squabble over a cell phone. Obviously, it’s embarrassing.”
The only thing more embarrassing than Baer’s “squabble” is the pathetic excuse he used to put out the fire. We saw, clear as day, Baer rip the phone from his wife’s hand, forcing her to fall on the ground when she already had an injured foot, and then we all listened to her scream in the process. We could feel Pam Baer’s anguish.
Later that day, the Baers issued a joint statement, and this one came through the team — so I hoped he was receiving some professional crisis management help.
“Regrettably today we had a heated argument in public over a family matter. We are deeply embarrassed by the situation and have resolved the issue.”
OK, perhaps I was wrong about receiving “professional” help. That statement is only slightly less ridiculous than the first statement. Again, this was more than just an argument. The man physically assaulted his wife and it was plastered all over the internet.
But wait — there’s more! At 6pm on Friday, Baer issued yet another stale, pre-packaged statement:
“I am truly sorry for the pain that I have brought to my wife, children and to the organization. It is not reflective of the kind of a person that I aspire to be, but it happened and I will do whatever it takes to make sure that I never behave in such an inappropriate manner again.”
Finally, grown up words crafted by a crisis counselor. But we weren’t done as Pam Baer felt the need to issue a separate statement through her attorney.
“I would like to clarify the events of today. My husband and I had an argument in public about which we are quite embarrassed. I took his cellphone. He wanted it back and I did not want to give it back. I started to get up and the chair I was sitting in began to tip. Due to an injury I sustained in my foot three days ago, I lost my balance. I did not sustain any injury based on what happened today. Larry and I always have been and still are happily married.”
Ugh! Pam, no need for you to lie and further embarrass yourself. We witnessed what happened. It was captured on video. You did not start to get up. He forced your fall to the ground as you were sitting there.
Finally, in announcing Larry Baer’s leave of absence, the Giants organization issued what I hope and pray will be the parting shot (until they announce his resignation in a few months).
“Mr. Baer has acknowledged that his behavior was unacceptable, apologized to the organization and is committed to taking steps to make sure that this never happens again….As leaders in the community, we at the Giants hold ourselves to the highest standards and those standards will guide how we consider this matter moving forward.”
Fair enough, so let’s put a bow on this mess.
In a situation like this, there are no happy endings. You’re simply hope to mitigate the fallout of Larry Baer’s inexcusable behavior. Yet in the absence of calm — you could see it in the video as he’s pondering the tragic mistake he’s just made in assaulting his wife — Larry Baer panicked. He proceeded to rush an ill-conceived statement out the door which made his situation even worse, rather than exercising patience, huddling with both his attorney and the Giants organization, and then on Saturday morning issuing one and only one statement expressing his deep regret, embarrassment, and willingness to accept any responsibility for his actions.
Instead of owning up to his debacle like a big boy, Larry Baer now has a crisis on his hands — a Giant one, if you will — that’s only been exacerbated by his lack of crisis acumen.