Media Jaws Consumes 49ers
July 4, 2005 at 12:00 AM
Although late with my comments on this matter I cannot help but feel appalled at the training video manufactured by our very own public relations director Kirk Reynolds in that it depicted a once highly respected sports organization throughout the world ridiculing and degrading the very people that have supported it for so many years.
The 15-minute film was a training measure done to instruct players on how to handle certain media infractions on very risqué subjects of matter. It was intended to raise player awareness on how to mentally prepare and answer media shark reporters should something out of the ordinary break into a low-grade media tabloid.
This film, was shot in part in San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome's office, it features team public relations director Kirk Reynolds impersonating the mayor and overseeing everything from a lesbian wedding; which ends with the couple undressing each other on the floor, to a Chinatown interview with a man who speaks with a stereotypical accent. The man, in fact is George Chung, a former team consultant.
On top of all that some of this film was shot at a San Francisco porn theatre. The entire film ends with Reynolds, dressed only in a towel, instructing players on locker-room behavior.
"There are women in the locker room," he says as three topless women primp in front of a mirror, "so put on a towel and be professional."
What transpired out of this incredible secret was an internal corporate unraveling like you've never seen before. What many people don't know is that 49ers public relations director Kirk Reynolds actually made the film but never intended for it to be released to the public as he claims.
His intention was to educate the players about the media relation's responsibilities as well as to instruct players on the need to be sensitive to the very diverse population in the greater San Francisco area. What he didn't do was blatantly apparent to all, as the film was never edited to withdraw the explicit sex scenes, crude language and racial stereotyping.
For this I hold as many of you do Kirk Reynolds responsible as well as all management in the San Francisco 49ers front office. Reynolds went on to say that he was embarrassed and deeply apologetic "for causing this kind of distraction to the organization, Mayor Newsom and the entire city of San Francisco. The intentions were good, but the execution was in poor taste, and I take full responsibility."
This film was actually shown to players and coaches last August after a training camp practice. The General Manager Terry Donahue was entering his second season with his handpicked head coach in Dennis Erickson.
According to Reynolds, Donahue provided owner John York with excerpts of the tape in early January, all shortly before being dismissed as general manager. Later, York received a copy of the entire tape and Reynolds was promptly reprimanded.
A riff had been developing with then General Manager Terry Donahue and Public Relations Director Kirk Reynolds. In fact Reynolds has been accused of encouraging or providing information to damage Donahue's credibility with team ownership, at least that is what is perceived to be the notion.
When the full tape did not achieve the desired results Terry Donahue wanted after it was presented to owner John York he is thought to have smuggled a copy after he was dismissed to take home with him.
His intention according to Kirk Reynolds thereafter was to somehow extract retribution in a perverse way to take Reynolds down for his involvement in getting him dismissed as the 49ers general manager.
Copies of the tape were sent by an anonymous source to at least two reporters at the San Francisco Chronicle, which ran a story on the top of its front page one Wednesday and provided the video on its Web site.
The backlash on this was enormous from both a personal level and a community level as well, enough to cost Kirk Reynolds his job as public relations director of the San Francisco 49ers.
"The video is offensive in every manner," owners Denise and John York said in a statement. "We deeply regret that anyone from our organization would produce such senseless, inexcusable material."
Kirk Reynolds still holds on to the conviction that former General Manager Terry Donahue holds him at least partially responsible for his firing. And that this was his way of evening out the playing board. He is convinced that Donahue leaked out the video as an act of vengeance on him for his perceived involvement in his dismissal.
"He made it clear to some friends of mine that he was going to try to take me down, so, yeah, I have a fairly strong belief that he's got some involvement in this," Reynolds said.
Of course Terry Donahue denied the accusation.
"I had absolutely nothing to do with the making of that tape and absolutely nothing to do with the releasing of that tape, period." Donahue said in a phone interview. "Anyone who says otherwise has the facts confused or is attempting to slander me."
Referring to Donahue, Reynolds said: "Obviously, that didn't get the results he was looking for, and I believe he sent it to the (San Francisco) Chronicle."
Many of the players had interesting comments once this video was made public. But almost all defended Kirk Reynolds as being a man of conviction yet this tape was made in very poor taste and represented sensitive subjects that were never meant for the public to be made aware of.
Safety Tony Parrish said he was "curious" about Donahue's role, and linebacker Julian Peterson said, "I think things will come back to whoever let it out like that."
Kirk Reynolds was someone that believed in the power of video to push a message across to his audience. In fact he had been producing such videos for about six years but admitted this one "pushed the envelope" in a bid to grab the players' attention.
Linebacker Saleem Rasheed conceded though that this tape "got out of hand." His comments come from being a devout Muslim. He went on to say he understood that as he watched the video it was directed at a room full of football players. At the same time, Rasheed stopped short of a complete defense of the video.
"There's nudity and making fun of Asians and gays," he said. "If it's viewed by the public, of course people are going to be sensitive. And I think we should be sensitive to the public as well. If they see something like that, we don't want them to think that that's what we stand for."
The verdict on how everyone feels about Kirk Reynolds varies from person to person. Certainly the players of the San Francisco 49ers have nothing but respect for this individual. However at the same time making a video of this nature comes with bearing certain risk, a risk that could blow up much like what we have seen right here.
"I certainly offended people and I never intended to offend anybody," Reynolds said. "Anybody who knows me, that's not a reflection of who I am. I did something for an audience that got out of hand. It was contradictory to my values and beliefs and contradictory to the team's values. I completely apologize to anybody that was offended."
What this tape does inside a locker room is generate attention. If anyone has ever been inside a football locker room on the professional level they all know what the testosterone level is inside.
Everyone becomes a target and all bets are off on anything that can happen. You have to grow a thick skin when entering and leaving a locker room full of heavy sweaty men to understand that you are in a different world where anything can be said or done.
Does it excuse this video? Heck no. Not in anyway because this video went way beyond the limits of morality, fairness and respectability. To show Mayor Gavin Newsom in a compromising position after he has been a driving force for a new stadium?
To insult and stereotype an Asian man and have the full cooperation of a 49er employee in George Chung doing it? On top of that to have the piece shot by team videographer Keith Yanagi added even more fuel to an already volatile fire.
And just think about the lesbian sex scene and the strippers? Do you think that is just a little offensive to co-owner Denise DeBartolo York? It is acts like this shot on film that grab the attention of a player while in the sanctuary of a free for all style locker room.
What really happened is that Kirk Reynolds didn't heed his own advice and that is to realize that everything done in the limelight of the NFL is under intense scrutiny. A story like this if not in San Francisco probably would've broke out somewhere else eventually.
The Chinese-American community and the Gay community in the Bay Area reacted with outrage and called for immediate action on the part of the 49ers to do something. The backlash from this video was swift and intense and had the brass at 49er headquarters with their collective heads rolling.
"The video is demeaning to women, people of color, immigrants, the Asian and Pacific Islander community, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community, and the City and County of San Francisco," said the 25 signatories from such groups as Chinese for Affirmative Action, Community United Against Violence, the Asian Law Caucus and the California Coalition for Civil Rights."
Owner John York made a trip into Chinatown in San Francisco and embraced the Chinese community and reaffirmed his support to that community. He openly apologized to all of them and made promises and allowances that the team would be more active inside their community.
He also understands that in order for the San Francisco 49ers to prosper here in the Bay Area he must have all of the different races and genders involved in the forward progress movement on making a new stadium for the team a reality.
This video and the ones that followed it provide a big step in humility for the team and have opened the eyes for many in the NFL for a sense of tolerance like never before.
I am proud of the San Francisco 49ers and their swift response to this. Owner John York expressed great outrage at the tape and all that it stands for. His open hand and willingness to listen and understand was enormous. I cannot condone Kirk Reynolds for what he did and if Terry Donahue was involved in an act of revenge then I hope someday he'll get true justice.
The San Francisco 49ers need all of its fans to be united as one force. We cannot tolerate any sort of division no matter what it's based upon. We need to be a people of great character, integrity and religious tolerance. We need to wear our 49er gear with pride and know that they represent all of us not just some of us.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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