When it comes to athletes and understanding public relations and public perception, there are few better than Drew Brees.
He’s Deveney Communications and Peter Mayer Advertising rolled into one incredibly smart, super-athletic 33-year-old man.
Rarely has he slipped up.
Tuesday afternoon, he lost a little bit of leverage, a possible PR gaffe unexpected from the public-speaking guru.
He took to the airwaves, hitting ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in The Morning show, an interview with Darren Rovell of CNBC and ESPN TV’s Outside the Lines.
It was on OTL that he gave the Saints the upper hand in this longest of contract stalemates.
When asked about whether he’d sit out, the action most presumed he would take should the contract situation not be resolved, Brees said he “would never sit out a football season.”
“I love the game too much,” Brees told the host. “I love my team too much. But obviously, there’s a lot that can happen between now and then.”
On the surface, this would mean that Brees would be the one to blink before the July 16 deadline to come up with a long-term contract.
The Saints would have the upper hand, holding onto their contract proposal, on less than what Brees’ agent Tom Condon is shooting for. And should Brees not accept it, he basically said Tuesday that he would play for the $16.4 million salary he’s set to make as a franchise-tagged player this season.
But Brees isn’t a dumb man.
This PR gaffe, in other words, could be a set up, a PR play instead of a PR goof.
Brees has a grievance hearing Wednesday that’s set to clarify whether he’ll earn 120 percent of his 2012 salary or 144 percent of it should he be tagged again in 2013.
He contends that this year marks his second franchise tag – once in 2005 with San Diego and this year with the Saints. New Orleans contends this year should be considered a first-time tag because they’ve only tagged him once.
If you’ve followed Brees’ career as a Players Association politician lately, he has stood up for the players at every turn.
Wednesday’s grievance hearing affects not just Brees, but other players in his situation in the future.
He may already know that there is a blue pill and a red pill to choose from, that his contract is all but hammered out.
But by going through with this hearing, he not only finds out if he’s worth as much as he thinks he is, he helps other players down the line.
Though we’ve heard this before, this could mean that this impasse is nearing an end.
And that would be a PR win for all.