Richard Scudamore, the Chief Executive of the Premier League, is facing increasing pressure to resign after the Sunday Mirror published emails he sent that contained sexist slurs and jokes.
The emails' contents were unsavory, crude and clearly sexist, and I'm not looking to defend Scudamore's comments. However, they were made in private emails, and the question remains as to whether people should be held responsible for things they do and say in private. In this case someone with a personal vendetta against Scudamore leaked the emails in an attempt to ruin his reputation and career, and in doing so betrayed both his trust and privacy.
I'm sure the vast majority of people have said things in private email, text or phone conversations that wouldn't paint them in a good light if they later became public knowledge - especially when taken out of context. This is probably even more frequent in written communications, where the tone of messages can easily be lost. In private, off the record conversations such as the ones Scudamore was having people are more relaxed and casual, abandoning the rigid, diplomatic personas we adopt we adopt when on public display. Things are often said that wouldn't be in a public setting, and later broadcasting such comments is a breach of trust.
However in Scudamore’s case, even if like me you have some sympathy for him over how the information came out, you can't just ignore his sexist behavior. Once damaging information like this emerges, the way it was obtained becomes pretty irrelevant, as public perceptions will change and people can’t simply ignore revelations because they disapprove of how they came about. He is at the head of one of the world's most recognisable brands, giving his personal reputation and image extra importance, and it's hard not to conclude that his position has become untenable. With pressure and condemnation mounting, it is surely now just a matter of time before he is forced to leave his post.
A similar incident has taken place over the past few weeks on the other side of the Atlantic, too, with the owner of the LA Clippers Donald Sterling being heavily fined and banned from the NBA for life after a recording of him making racist comments to his mistress was published by TMZ. While Sterling's comments were shocking, and the groundswell of public anger so great that the NBA had little choice but to administer the harshest punishment possible, he like Scudamore was stitched up to satisfy a personal feud and his trust betrayed.
The simple way to avoid inappropriate private comments coming back to haunt you is to not make them, of course, but we all say stupid things from time to time and both these cases show that the fact comments were made in private will not be deemed a legitimate excuse in the modern world. Scudamore and Sterling may both have shown themselves to be unfit to hold the positions they do with their prejudiced comments, so perhaps the ends justified the means, but do we all not have a right for our private comments to remain just that?