HOUSTON (CBS Houston) It appears as if the Houston Astros are on a rapid decline, not just because of their 10-30 record, but because of bad public relations. The latest misstep spurred a protest among Astros blogging sites for 24 hours. Owner Jim Crane cancelled the 24th Annual Astros’ Wives Gala which benefitted the Houston Area Women’s Shelter and infuriated fans and bloggers. The Astros organization did not directly donate to the HAWC each year but did provide Minute Maid Park as the venue while the Astros’ Wives Organization, a charitable group separate from the team, conducted the gala. The Astros organization decided to disband the Astros’ Wives Organization and select a “strategic focus” for their charitable donation. An official statement was released 24 hours after the story first broke on KHOU.com Monday. Here is an excerpt from the Astros Foundation Executive Director Meg Vaillancourt:
“The Gala was never an Astros or Astros Foundation event; it was previously hosted by a prior Wives organization, which is no longer active because there are no current Astros wives involved with the organization. From the last state filing we viewed, there was only 1person listed as director and her husband is no longer with the Astros, having departed from the team last year. The other person listed on the publicly available tax forms on file was a paid consultant, who received a portion of fees raised by the Gala each year.
As with most MLB teams, the current Astros wives are very generously working with the official team charity, the Astros Foundation, the Astros nonprofit that seeks to harness fans and sponsors interest in baseball to make positive changes in our community for at- risk and low income youth. Most charities seek to make a greater impact by choosing a strategic focus. This past off season, the Astros Foundation selected a strategic focus: to serve at-risk youth through our cornerstone youth baseball and softball programs.”
The statement goes on to talk about the team’s new focus, at-risk youth and baseball programs and how the team is donating $18 million towards that goal. Noble, but could more have been done to salvage the bad taste in everyone’s mouth over abandoning the HAWC? When a team is undergoing its worst start in franchise history and on pace for their third-straight 100-plus loss season, good publicity and word-of-mouth is all it has. Breaking a story about not supporting a local area women’s shelter just one day after Mother’s Day was not only regrettable, but frustratingly avoidable.
Owner Jim Crane made the decision in January to focus his charitable endeavors elsewhere, but where was the official statement then? Public relations could have headed off the firestorm of bad media by issuing a press release. To take it one step further, Crane could have even come out of this whole firestorm looking better by offering to donate some charitable funds to the HAWC before parting ways. Instead, the Astros PR team decided to wait 24 hours and simply say that the Astros’ Wives Club had to be disbanded because there were simply no wives. Where does that leave the Houston Area Women’s Shelter? Not the Astros’ problem, understandably, but the fans and media were going to question the motives and sincerity of the sudden change in direction. Did Crane and his PR team not foresee this growing avalanche of bad publicity?
As a result, several Astros blogging sites went silent on Tuesday in protest. Here are some excerpts:
“My work ethic and passion will continue but it may not be applied to an Astros organization that seems to have lost its integrity.”
“If ever a team needed some good PR, it’s the Astros. Pulling support for a Women’s Center is not just bad PR, it’s bad humanity.”
“Losing 110 games doesn’t make me ashamed to be an Astros fan. But this does.”
“No matter what the reasons for disbanding the Astros Wives Organization, the Astros have been associated with this charity for a number of years and I find it very unfortunate that they no longer intend to support it as a part of their charitable endeavors.”
Houston Area Women’s Shelter offers counseling, support, and shelter to women and children who are victims of sexual and domestic abuse. To donate, click here.