In elite and professional athletics, humor can oftentimes be overlooked. Now, I’m not saying you should joke around about your performance after a big loss or a terrible hangover, but there is a time and place for it. And, if used correctly, humor can be a great means of connecting with the media and growing a fan base.
It’s emotional, it’s engaging and it reminds us that despite your incredible talent and celebrity status you’re actually a real person. People like that.
Of course, using humor can get you into trouble if you’re not cautious. Roy Hibbert’s recent “no homo” slip-up, for example, demonstrates a couple key rules:
- Note the environment. A post-game press conference after Game 6 of competitive semi-championship series probably isn’t the place
- Avoid religion and politics.
- Be consistent with your brand (or your company’s brand). As many were quick to point out, LeBron James wasn’t fined for a similar comment in the past. But, his didn’t come on the heels of Jason Collins’ coming out as the NBA pledged to be supportive.
- Don’t confuse humor with making fun of someone else. (This doesn’t apply to the Hibbert example but I think it’s important.)
If nothing else, be willing to make fun of yourself. Just ask USA gymnast McKayla Maroney who gained respect after owning up to a moment of unsportsmanlike conduct.
And if you aren’t funny, let the professionals give you a hand: