‘Soft’ needs image consultant

Unknown-1Soft is everywhere. I wrote about the use of “soft” in the past, regarding sports and gender insults. It keeps appearing. Magic Johnson tweeted that current Lakers player Pau Gasol should “stop playing soft.” A Foreign Policy blog post in defense of John Brennan, who is President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the CIA, included this headline: ‘Wait, so John Brennan is soft on terror now?’

It got me thinking (Carrie Bradshaw get out of my head), is it ever good to be soft? The answer, mostly, is “no.”

Rihanna isn’t soft, she’s “so hard.” It’s never good to be soft in sports. Politics? No way. Don’t be soft on terrorism, crime, drugs. Soft money is unregulated (i.e. bad). If you speak softly, it’s advisable to carry a big stick. Conservatives generally dislike “soft power,” and liberals generally like it, but liberals prefer “smart power.”

Conservative news website Breibart.com reported that Matt Damon’s anti-fracking drama “Promise Land” opened “soft” at the box office.  In a summary/review, it said “audiences have no patients for these types of films.” Sorry, I have a soft spot for copy editing.

Terrorists look for soft targets. “Easy” target seems like a more accurate description. Strategists prefer attacking an opponent’s soft underbelly (an affront to those of us with rock-hard abs).

Thanks to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, plus-sized soft drinks are being forced to rebrand themselves.

But it’s not all bad for soft. With the economy, a soft landing is preferred over a hard landing when governments adjust monetary policies. Of course, economics is a soft science. This LA Times op-ed explains how soft sciences get bullied.

There is hard and soft news in journalism. Hard news is the meat (and potatoes) of traditional journalism, so technically it’s preferred (in my experience, anyway) over soft news. Trend or investigative stories are typically linked to hard news, though not categorized as such. But the lines are fairly blurred these days. Check out the variety of headlines on the Huffington Post’s front page.

NRA’s words for media

The National Rifle Association doesn’t like the media. I totally get it. Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, said the media is partially responsible for the recent massacre of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

But just how much does the NRA hate the media? I analyzed LaPierre’s speech for some answers.

From the text of his speech, here are the words and phrases associated with the media:

  • Reckless, dishonest, violate, demonize, machine, copycats, offend, shock, conglomerates, untrue, misinformation, fame, stockholders, conceal, rewards, attention, propaganda, provoking;
  • Toxic mix, moral failings, dirty little truth, criminal cruelty, complicit co-conspirators, silent enablers, shocking headlines.

Now, here are the words and phrases associated with the NRA:

  • Experts, (3 times), expertise (twice), knowledge (twice), mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, dedication, resources, preeminent, willing, qualified, safety, noise, anger, advanced, credentialed, protecting;
  • Plan of action, respectfully silent, positive defense.

Besides blaming the media (and others), LaPierre called for every school in America to be protected by armed security guards or police officers. The New York Times, in an editorial, said it was “stunned” by LaPierre’s “mendacious, delusional, almost deranged rant.”

President Barack Obama has called for “meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

The NRA surely would oppose new legislation to limit access to firearms. Words that did NOT appear in LaPierre’s statement include: license, reform, improve, restrict.

The NRA chief DID mention: slasher films, video games, monsters, drug gang members, and foreign aid.

Ninjas, N-words and lacrosse

Jovan Miller in action; top left (Photo www.charlottehounds.com)

Jovan Miller in action; top left (Photo www.charlottehounds.com)

Does President Barack Obama have time for another White House beer summit? The lacrosse community should dial the hotline to arrange a get-together.

It began with an advertising campaign that used the “other” N-word, as in Ninja. Warrior Sports, a sponsor of Major League Lacrosse, was promoting its “Dojo” sneakers with the slogan #NinjaPlease on Twitter and elsewhere.

Black players were offended (I’m sure others were, too), correctly noting that the slogan could only have been inspired by the derogatory phrase “(N-word) please.” They protested. Chazz Woodson wrote on his Facebook page that “I couldn’t sit back and NOT say anything when a campaign, from such a large and influential lacrosse company, says to the Black community — overtly or not … what you think or feel does not matter.”

Jovan Miller gave away his Warrior gear and threatened to retire from MLL. Warrior, a subsidiary of New Balance Athletic Shoe, dropped the slogan, apologized and scrubbed the offensive language from its sites. Miller ended his boycott.

So, we’re all good, right? Not exactly.

It remains puzzling why the company selected the phrase. Warrior marketing director Dave Dixon told Lacrosse Magazine that “it certainly wasn’t meant to offend anyone.” But Dixon wouldn’t answer the most important question, which was how did the ad slogan originate? He replied, “I don’t want to go into other details.”

Next, I’m surprised that the story didn’t spark more media attention. It was covered by Deadspin, BET, NBC’s Charlotte affiliate, as well as Syracuse University media and lacrosse publications. That’s according to my Google News search. With respect, though, I thought it had the makings of a national story by more mainstream press.

Wait, aren’t we living in a post-racial society? Woodson, in a recent column, described his “love/hate relationship” with the sport “because it’s put me in awkward mental and emotional positions numerous times. On three separate occasions, I’ve been called a nigger — to my face, by members of the lacrosse community. Once by an opponent. Twice by teammates.”

Use of “ni**a” is not the only issue when it comes to race relations, but it’s definitely an unresolved one. White people just shouldn’t use it, period. But others disagree. Hello Gwyneth Paltrow.

Meanwhile, Warrior should step up, with some in-house sensitivity training and perhaps (extra) outreach to underserved communities. I’m not crossing my fingers, though. The Lacrosse Magazine story noted that Warrior’s marketing tactics in the past also raised eyebrows, citing products named Penetrator, Stiffi and G-Spot.

Meanwhile, I saw on Warrior’s web site that it also sponsors the prestigious Liverpool football club (at a cost of $40 million per year). Congrats on that. You can buy Liverpool gear there. But it’s worth noting that one of the three players pictured on the site modeling the uniforms is striker Luis Suarez.

The English Football Association suspended Suarez for eight matches last season after concluding that Suarez repeatedly used a racial slur against a black opponent (Patrice Evra of Manchester United). I’m not a marketing specialist, but given the “ninja” controversy, I’d probably crop Suarez out of the photo. I wouldn’t have featured him in the first place. Just sayin.