Steven Adams and 'Quick Little Monkeys'

Posted May 18, 2016

I don’t believe for a minute that Steven Adams meant any harm when he described Golden State’s guards as ‘quick little monkeys’, but it raises two important points about media interviews.

Firstly are the obvious cultural differences. What means one thing to one culture or country can mean something totally different in another. The term ‘monkey’ is associated with racism in the US, but not in New Zealand. These differences are common, even among similar countries. I still remember an incident when I was living in Australia. I once told someone I would flag something. To a New Zealander, that means you wont do it, but to an Australian, it means it’s a top priority.

Clearly spokespeople need to be careful when talking to media in different countries. It’s impossible to eliminate the possibility of this happening, but a bit of homework is important. It’s no different from a business trying to open up new export markets.

Secondly, the best way to limit this happening is to stay on message. This is more difficult in a post-match interview where preparation time is limited, but it’s important to create a message in more structured interviews and avoid deviating too far from it.

History is littered with spokespeople falling into this trap and having their off-the-cuff remarks become the story. Who could forget former BP CEO Tony Hayward’s “I want my life back” after the Gulf of Mexico Oil spill, or Richard Nixon’s, “I’m not a crook.”

You still answer the reporter’s questions, but you focus is on coming back to your points in interesting ways.

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