The Philadelphia Story: Unintended Consequences?

By Eric Seidel, CEO
The Media Trainers

“There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexionand the atmosphere of the club.”

–John Duesler, President, The Valley Club, suburban Philadelphia

That statement was John Duesler’s second mistake. His first one was summarily ending the agreement his club had with Creative Steps and its summer camp program instead of finding a better time to make his swimming pool available. Now, whether or not deserved, he and his club have gained a national reputation and perception of racial bias and exclusivity. (Click on the video below for a local Philadelphia TV news story.)

Sadly, this didn’t have to happen. But, in knee jerk reaction to member complaints, Duesler failed to think about the results of his actions. Now, a case is being made that the influx of 65 minority kids in the club pool recently ignited latent racism among the club’s regular members.

His initial statement (above), especially the use of the words “complexion” and “atmosphere” are, at best, unfortunate. At worst, they may shed light on his honest feelings and, perhaps, those of some club members. All the protestations by members that they are not racists tend to ring hollow now in many ears. It may not be fair, or even true, but club management’s actions and statements, plus media reports are creating a much more damaging perception.

Crisis, or the potential for it, often triggers panic and careless, unthinking response. The result is usually unanticipated, unintended and unwanted impressions. The Valley Club’s management and some of its members failed to consider the consequences of their actions and statements.

Which reminds me of what Forrest Gump once said:

“Stupid is as stupid does.”

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