Ross Levin’s resignation is the Saints’ best hope to move on from #dickileaks
Many people who share my disgust at the St Kilda Football Club’s inflammatory handling of Dickileaks seem concerned that the “mainstream media” has failed to report the story fairly. I’m not.
It is certainly true that traditional media outlets have a long-term interest in maintaining good relations with AFL clubs and that this inevitably colours their coverage of this kind of story. It is also true that the Neanderthalish social mores of the average footy club are likely to be somewhat reflected by reporters who cover the game for a living. Like the Canberra press gallery, the footy world suffers for being stuck in a endlessly-cycling feedback loop.
However, I don’t think these sad facts of life have protected the Saints or the AFL from significant reputational harm as a result of their mishandling of the Dickileaks saga. Far from it. The strategy employed by both organisations has been so disastrous that no amount of fawning, obfuscatory coverage could save them.
It is not rocket science, although communications professionals like me can (although I don’t!) earn a lot of money by pretending it is.
Fights over reputation almost always take very simple narrative forms: David v Goliath, good v evil, bully v victim. These are story-lines to which people can readily connect, both intellectually and (more importantly) at an emotive level. The Saints’ decision to pursue the girl in question via the courts and in the media instantly positioned the club on the wrong side of this narrative divide. The evil bully Goliath side.
Aside from rusted-on footy apologists and haters of girls and women, public opinion has swing decisively against them, as was bound to happen as soon as Ross Levin, the Saints’ VP-lawyer, brought his sledgehammer into the fray. It’s as simple as that, really.
The Saints and the AFL will work this out soon enough. They will need to move decisively, and soon, to curtail the damage caused by this ruckus. Gentle back-pedalling and soft-focus outreach efforts won’t just fall short, it will exacerbate the problem by revealing how little these institutions have learned.
While I am not inclined to offer free advice to this sorry cast of characters, they might start by asking Ross Levin to take the first step
Off the end of St Kilda pier.