The League

Jason Maloni
Crisis Communications Expert

Jason Maloni

Senior Vice President with
Levick Strategic Communications
and Chair of the firm's Sports & Entertainment Practice.

Anything's Possible


For Larry Johnson, resurrecting his career goes deeper than getting signed with another team.

Johnson - just a few days shy of 30 - never quite recaptured the glory of 2005-06, and the odds are against him returning to that form if he returns to the gridiron this season. Don't get me wrong, Johnson is a tremendous athlete but the fact remains that he is in the twilight of his career. His on-field performances of '05 and '06 have already been dimmed by lackluster seasons. Add to that off-field incidents such as spitting on a woman, homophobic remarks and -- in clearly what could be the last scene in a really bad soap opera - belittling his coaches over Twitter (see my earlier League entry about athletes being Twits).

He is now officially teetering on the brink of football obscurity. At this point, the best thing he can say is he was able to wash the Ki-Jana Carter taste out of the mouths of Penn State football fans but that's about it.

Yet, there is always a chance for a second act. For Johnson, the resurrection of his career lies in his ability to transcend media criticism, make a fresh start, be a role player on another team and make headlines in the sports page and not on TMZ.

Take the late Reggie White as an example. He too made homophobic (as well as racist) remarks and, for a time, his great performances on the field were overshadowed by his inappropriate comments. CBS Sports, which had been considering White as an analyst at the time, immediately quashed the deal. . Still, "The Minister of Defense" was elected to the Professional Football Hall of Fame on his very first ballot. Today, White is remembered by many for his deeds outside of football, as much, if not more than his sacks. His remarks of 1998 are a mere footnote in the memories many NFL fans.

Second chances are everywhere. In the NFL most recently there's Ricky Williams and Michael Vick. David Beckham seems to have mended fences with Landon Donovan and the L.A. Galaxy after his dedication and leadership were brought into question last summer. Now he is being rewarded by fans and teammates for showing passion and commitment to the L.A. Galaxy squad and for helping the team reach the playoffs for the first time in four years.

Robert Downey Jr. used to be a Hollywood pariah. In one of my favorite Simpsons episodes the family is touring Hollywood and passes by an animated likeness of the actor in a gun battle with police. Marge says "Look! There's Robert Downey Jr. in a shoot-out with the police." "That's funny," Bart says. "I don't see any cameras."

Johnson can learn from many people who've stumbled down the path of life before him, but he needs to be very deliberate in his next steps.

The first step, of course, is winning the trust of a team. But that is just the start of the road to redemption.

By Jason Maloni  |  November 11, 2009; 12:17 PM ET  | Category:  Kansas City Chiefs , Michael Vick Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: LJ's revenge | Next: How hard is keeping quiet?

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