Here’s a twist to a familiar plot.
Man sees woman. Woman is beautiful. Man says so. Social media erupts. The organization that man works for publicly apologizes for man’s comments.
The man in this case is veteran broadcaster Brent Musburger. The woman is Miss Alabama, Katherine Webb. The broadcaster is ESPN. And the corporate apology? Was it necessary?
During the college football national championship game on Monday night, Musburger commented on Webb, who is the girlfriend of University of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. As she appeared on screen next to McCarron’s mother, Musburger exclaimed:
“You quarterbacks, you get all the good-looking women. What a beautiful woman … If you’re a youngster in Alabama, start getting the football out and throw it around the backyard with pop.”
Experts and members of the general public have weighed in saying the comments were “creepy,” prompting the following apology from ESPN:
“We always try to capture interesting storylines and the relationship between an Auburn grad who is Miss Alabama and the current Alabama quarterback certainly met that test. However, we apologize that the commentary in this instance went too far and Brent understands that.”
The one person who didn’t think the commentary went too far was Webb.
When questioned by Matt Lauer on this morning’s “Today” show, Webb said: “I think the media has been very unfair to him… he said we were beautiful and gorgeous … anyone would be flattered by that.”
Especially when you gain more than 100,000 Twitter followers overnight and have Donald Trump requesting your presence as a judge at this weekend’s Miss USA pageant. Even Webb’s parents think critics should cut Musburger some slack
The whole situation prompts the question: Are organizations becoming overly sensitive and too quick to issue apologies—especially when social media enters the realm?
“I thought ESPN apologizing was not out of line,” says Missouri-based PR pro Matt LaCasse
. “I do think social media (as well as traditional media) have sped up the decision-making process in terms of crisis communications."
“You can no longer afford to sit on any type of controversy for a few days lest someone completely turn it into a mountain on scale with Everest when all it was, in this case, was a medium-sized molehill. That's also how we are as a society. If someone slights you, and doesn't apologize the same day, people freak out. It's instant gratification to a certain extent.”
Last month, ESPN commentator Rob Parker apologized via Twitter after
labeling Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III as a “cornball brother” The incident led to his ousting from the network
The University of Alabama defeated Notre Dame 42-14 to take the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) title.
Kevin Allen contributed to this report.