by Irvin Muchnick
In USA Swimming’s now-infamous internal memo revealing the latest iteration of the organization’s “new strategy” — basically: make a safe sport initiative or two around the edges, while sharpening the PR tools for continuing to beguile gullible media into minimizing the coach sexual abuse problem — there’s a reference to “partner” Ground Floor Media. This is a Denver-based public relations outfit that touts itself as “one of the few firms capable of synthesizing strategic communications, digital & social media strategy, crisis communication & reputation management.”
Yeah, ya gotta manage that reputation. As Othello put it: “Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.”
And, yeah, we know these guys.
In March, as my partner Tim Joyce was blowing open the stories of abuse allegations against Murray Stephens, the Hall of Fame founder of Michael Phelps’ North Baltimore Aquatic Club, and of the University of Utah’s firing of monster coach Greg Winslow, Ground Floor Media was smearing Tim by trolling Forbes’ RealClearSports.com, for which he is a contributor.
The reputation watchdog agency’s senior director of communications, Gil Rudawsky, emailed an RCS editor: “I wanted to make you aware that one of your writers http://www.realclearsports.com/authors/tim_joyce/), is using your site to link to his personal blog. Please see the most recent post dated March 3 links to her [sic] personal blog and is not hosted by Real Clear Sports and does not adhere to journalistic standards.”
RCS chose not to respond to Rudawsky, whose company bio describes him as being “as comfortable in boardrooms as he is in union halls.” (It doesn’t say whether he is as comfortable on the “ground floor” as he is in the gutter.)
According to the recent USA Swimming memo, Ground Floor Media will be raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from this dues-based membership organization in order to help make CEO Chuck Wielgus and safe sport director Susan Woessner come off as more likable, and to consult with clubs and regional affiliates in tamping down “flare-ups of local media attention” when communities across the country want to know what the deal is with coaches who are credibly, often multiply, accused of molesting minor athletes.
As Wielgus said, this is “an increasing unfortunate fact of life for all youth-serving organizaations.” So, by implication, is the turn to goons like Ground Floor Media in lieu of resources to support victims.