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For many, many years, those of us in South Florida have idolized Dan Marino. With six kids, two of them adopted, he's not only a beloved retired Dolphins quarterback, he's the ultimate family man. He's usually photographed alongside his wife or family. His personal, family situation is part of his brand.
Today, we learn that Dan Marino fathered a child with a woman who was not his wife.
The New York Post reported that Marino, a current CBS football analyst, had an affair with former CBS Sports production assistant Donna Savattere, and the two had a daughter, Chloe, in June 2005. (She is now 7 years old.)
"This is a personal and private matter. I take full responsibility both personally and financially for my actions now as I did then," Marino said in a statement. "We mutually agreed to keep our arrangement private to protect all parties involved."
My wife and I have been married for almost 30 years and have six children together," Marino said. "And we continue to be a strong and loving family."
After the birth of Chloe, the Post reports Marino "agreed to pay millions" and Savattere moved from New York to Texas to keep their relationship and child a secret.
Obviously, Marino messed up in his personal life. But how does that affect his work life, his brand and his future? We have seen this before with other celebrities. Some bounce back. Others don't. I asked PR guru Maria Pierson for her thoughts. Maria is co-founder and CEO of Pierson Grant Public Relations in Fort Lauderdale and has more than 30 years of public relations experience.
Q. Have we always cared about the family life of celebrities?
A. I think we are in an era where family life becomes synonymous with the person. With 24/7 news coverage now we're more focused on watching things play out on TV. Look at people like Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o. They chose a public televised way to come clean. We live in that culture now. That's what they think they should do. Years ago in PR, we would say you know you're in trouble if you see a 60 Minutes reporter at your door. Today, everything plays out on a computer screen or television. From Marino's perspective, I’m a little surprised it took this long for the news to come out.
Q. How do you think Marino managed to keep up his image as a family man for seven years while having a child with another woman?
A. Dan marino has such a high profile in South Florida so I think from that perspective had it happened in South Florida we would have known earlier. It happened in New York where he was spending every weekend during football season. I don't think people realized he was regularly away for the entire weekend during football season.
Q. Has this done permanent damage to his brand?
A. There is such equity in the Dan Marino brand. He's a hero on field. We he retired, he became known for his work with the Dan Marino Foundation. He and his wife single handedly brought the issue of autism to the forefront in South Florida. He had that going for him.
Q. So is that equity diminished?
A. What we tell our clients in these type of crisis issues is the truth will set you free. The sooner you tell truth and get ahead of the story, the news cycle will stop. If you don’t talk it becomes news worthy for a longer time and you’re open to rumors and stories. This issue with Dan Marino should end now that he's spoken out and was remorseful ,sincere and apologetic.
Q. Will the public accept his apology and move on?
A. It will only be back in the news if his wife decides to talk or divorce him or if the other woman sues. Right now, he's done everything he could do to put lid on it.
Q. Does this mess now become part of Marino's public image, much like Arnold Schwarzenegger and his child with the housekeeper?
A. The public has a short term memory. The best thing for Armstrong was Manti. The best thing for Manti was Dan. Dan is now in that list of people, which are men most of the time. When people think of Dan Marino, it does become part of the tag line and his brand takes a hit in short term.
Q. Did he get PR coaching?
A. That's a good question. Whether he did or didn't, he did a good job. The fact the he came out and came clean when the Post broke the story helped him. I felt like he handled it the best that could be expected in his situation.