MILWAUKEE (AP) -With the Brett Favre saga turning into quite a public-relations pickle, it would be hard to blame the Green Bay Packers for calling in someone with significant experience in crisis management.
But it was just a coincidence that former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer was in town for a guest lecture to Packers players Thursday.
Fleischer, who has traveled to several NFL camps in recent weeks to explain the finer points of media relations to players, spoke for about an hour. The session was scheduled several weeks ago, before Favre and the Packers became locked in a showdown over the three-time MVP's football future.
And while Fleischer didn't focus on how players should handle the simmering controversy in interviews, the subject certainly came up.
``Obviously, it's a topic, and it wasn't ignored,'' Fleischer said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press Thursday night.
Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary for most of President Bush's first term, now is the president of Ari Fleischer Sports Communications, a joint venture with IMG.
His message to athletes?
``When you're on the field, you keep your head in the game and don't make mental mistakes,'' Fleischer said. ``Don't go in the locker room and take your head out of the game.''
Fleischer said Packers players paid attention.
``You can tell it in the way they were watching and listening,'' Fleischer said. ``I was the last thing between them and lunch, and they stayed and paid attention.''
Fleischer advised players that having a good relationship with the media can enhance their image and help their career. And he told them to be careful.
``They're also going to stir the pot,'' Fleischer said. ``Don't take the bait.''
Fleischer, an avid sports fan, said sports coverage can be just as intense as political coverage - especially in high-profile cases such as the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball and the death of filly Eight Belles at the Kentucky Derby.
And Fleischer acknowledged that sports metaphors have become ubiquitous in politics.
``At the podium, I always naturally spoke in sports metaphors,'' Fleischer said. ``I remember going on the 'Today Show' during the recount in 2000, and saying, 'It's going into the 10th inning.' Little did I know it was going to go 18 innings.''
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