Like other professional sports franchises, the White Sox take steps to… (Ryan Jones/Reuters )
As a guy whose job it is to make sure the White Sox brand remains strong, the Manti Te'o fake girlfriend hoax represents one of chief marketing officer Brooks Boyer's worst nightmares.
"When you think of how big the Manti Te'o brand was during the season, that brand has been knocked down," Boyer said at SoxFest. "That can happen to the White Sox, it can happen to Pepsi, it can happen to anybody."
Lennay Kekua might not be a real person, but Boyer said Te'o's fake girlfriend does serve as a real-life cautionary tale for all pro athletes, especially given the fact that social media has completely changed how they interact with the public.
Boyer, himself a Notre Dame alum who spent four years on the school's basketball team, said because players are so visible, they need to take extra caution.
"If it sends any message, [it's] be aware of your surroundings," he said. "You always have to be aware because you can be a target. I am sure that [Te'o] is supremely humiliated by this entire situation."
Preventing a similar one starts at the lowest levels of the organization.
Boyer and general manager Rick Hahn said the club had programs in place to educate players on social media responsibility from the moment they join the organization long before the Te'o incident occurred.
"We've been doing that for a little while," Hahn said. "We do that on the minor league side with [senior vice president of communications] Scott Reifert and [assistant general manager] Buddy Bell. We have special lecturers come in in spring training and spend time with minor league and major league personnel."
Hahn said one of the biggest challenges the organization faces is the fact that everyone, from the front office to the players to even the media, has to deal with the fact that social media is evolving.
"We're all sort of learning a little bit here together in terms of the team side and the player side about what the new threats are and the new pitfalls are," he said.
Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.
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