Is it possible that in this day and age there are still business people who post controversial comments on sharing apps without considering the consequences? Apparently so.
This cautionary tale is currently setting South Africa on fire. A few days ago Adam Catzavelos, a 39-year-old businessman who was the marketing director for his family ‘s business, St. George Fine Foods, shared a video with a group of friends via WhatsApp. The video shows Catzavelos on a beach somewhere in Europe and he used a racist slur in his description of the people on that beach.
He used a word that in South Africa is considered as bad, or worse than, the N-word in the USA. Catzavelos uses the k-word to celebrate the fact that no black people were on the beach. His comment was, “Let me give you a weather forecast here: Blue skies‚ beautiful day‚ amazing sea and not one k****r in sight. F***ing heaven on earth.”
The video was shared by his friends and of course, it found its way onto social media and then went viral.
Needless to say, it was not well received by most South Africans and within a day he had been identified and outed. His wife had also been identified as Merchandising Manager for Nike Africa. As some political parties in South Africa were calling for an extreme response to this video, Nike closed their stores in Sandton over the weekend.
His family closed their place of business “to protect their staff. They announced that they had fired him and would be unwinding his share in the business.
So his video has affected a widening circle of people:
His life is in a shambles. He has no job and his family has disavowed him. He apparently has no plans to return to South Africa. No word yet on what his wife feels about the situation. She got dragged into the controversy with her employer, Nike, even though she was not in the video at all. There have been protesters outside Nike stores.
After calls to boycott Nike they put out this statement:
“Nike opposes discrimination and has a long-standing commitment to diversity‚ inclusion and respect. We believe in the power of human potential in everyone – of every race‚ religion‚ nationality‚ gender and sexual orientation. We can also confirm that Adam Catzavelos is not a Nike employee.”
Adam Catzavelos did write an apology on Twitter but it wasn’t well received. It was reposted with edits.
And it gets worse- charges of racism have been laid against Catzavelos and the South African Human Rights Commission is investigating the charges.
- Hold social media training sessions with all employees, including execs.
- Put a social media policy in place and do workshops to highlight the perils of posting controversial content.
- Drive home the fact that nothing is personal, private, hidden or anonymous. Don’t ever put anything online in any platform, no matter how secure you think it is, if you don’t want it to be seen publicly.
- You can be identified very quickly on social media.
- Have the staff work out how a controversial comment or action caught on video could make its way to social media and then mainstream media and how it will affect a wider circle of people.
- Train your staff how to correctly word an apology, if after all that training they still do something terminally stupid.