Here’s a simple message to organizations and their communication leaders: Don’t lie. Simple. People don’t like liars. Dishonesty will be rewarded with complete lack of trust. And that will cause you endless problems.
Case in point: Clay Bennett and the Seattle Supersonics. Bennett, a businessman from Oklahoma, bought the Sonics from Howard Schulz of Starbucks fame. Bennett said he would keep the team in Seattle but if he couldn’t because of concerns about recently renovated Key Arena, he would move them to Oklahoma.
Obviously a huge stir in Seattle. The legislature and city turned down very expensive demands from Bennett for public funding of a new arena. All the while Bennett is loudly claiming to the NBA and Seattle that he is doing all he can to keep the team in Seattle. And while he is doing this, he is writing emails to his buddies back in Oklahoma telling them to “hang in with me boys” and that they’ll get this team to Oklahoma soon.
As expected, the public airing of these private emails has created a sensation in Seattle. The Governor is all over the news saying: “We’ve all been lied to. I’m shocked, I’m very disappointed.”
King 5 TV sports anchor, Paul Silvi, has gone a lot further. Last night he aired a video combining a replaying of the damning emails along with music that repeated “liar, liar.” And he put out commentary saying that there is no way the NBA should allow this kind of “fungus” to infect their group which is already suffering from credibility problems.
Seattle is exploring all their legal options to keep the team in Seattle, but those seem doomed to fail. It comes down to the NBA and so far they have seemed cautiously supportive of Bennett’s intention to move the team. Now he has really stepped in it big time. Suddenly Sonic fans have the leverage they never had legally or politically to put the pressure on Bennett. And that lever is a few emails that Bennett never believed would see the light of day.
Lesson 1: Don’t lie.
Lesson 2: If you are going to be as stupid, devious, deceptive and fungal as Bennett is, then for Pete’s sake, don’t use email.