05/14/2014 05:38 EDT | Updated 07/14/2014 05:59 EDT

The Only Way To Survive Public Opinion Court

If you didn't catch the Toronto Raptors press conference this week, too bad. It was a great example of why we love the game, the players and the coaches -- and yes even the NBA -- so much.

The players were funny, humble and genuinely excited that their fans had a great time this year. People were cheering for a losing team, well in Toronto that is nothing new. But what was new was the genuine admiration the fans had for the team. And oh yeah... they all had their Raptors gear on.

The Raptors have an overabundance of community capital. In my book Mentoring: The Power of Two, I define community capital as what you build and bank from your creation of community goodwill. It works to enhance your brand's reputation and to provide a buffer against those inevitable moments of wavering public perception.

Community capital is the measure of positive interactions your company has with consumers, employees, the news media and government. You gain from community capital in the same way that you gain from your regular business investments. Community capital is necessary for everyone who deals with, and wants to sell to, the public.

It typically takes a lengthy period of time to accumulate and it can vanish fast. How fast? Recall RBC's outsourcing scandal of last year or Air Canada's recent public whipping after baggage handlers were filmed unceremoniously tossing passengers' luggage from a plane. The airline has said the handlers will be fired but the damage to its reputation and store of community capital has already been accomplished.

The Raptors, meanwhile, have plenty of community capital if not championships. Since they first came to Toronto I have had the chance to volunteer with many of the Raptors at breakfast programs, events for children with disabilities, with at risk young black men and, of course mentoring opportunities. Never have they said no to helping out.

I can tell you these Raptor players care about their adopted community. All the players I have dealt with are honest, hard working and ethical. They give back, with as much energy as they showed in the very last few minutes of that heartbreaking game last week. They play hard and they volunteer hard. A friend of mine who was the CEO of a Major League Baseball team once said that the only thing that sells tickets is winning players.

He is correct, but the only thing that can make good teams great is community capital. Trust and moral purpose build community capital. Community capital isn't built nor, typically, spent in a day.

LA Clippers soon-to-be former owner Donald Sterling, whose community capital was almost nonexistent before his true nature was revealed, has absolutely no support today. His attempt to regain even a pittance of community capital, his now infamous CNN interview, backfired after his character attack on NBA great Magic Johnson. Mr. Johnson is a man who took a bad diagnosis and turned it into an amazing life. We should all live like that and he is an amazing hero to children not just in Los Angeles but worldwide.

Don Imus, the U.S. shock jock who maligned the Rutgers women's basketball team with horrid epithets based on race, lost his job because he had no community capital. If he had had one African American person support him by saying, "You know, he just said that for shock value, to stir things up and boost his ratings; he doesn't think that way at all," perhaps someone would have believed his mea culpas. But he had no friends in the African American community. He was a bigot, and he was called out. Same thing with Donald Sterling. I am sure the NBA is dancing a jig because of that interview with Anderson Cooper. Talk about making a good decision great.

If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that corporate key messages aren't always about spin. The Internet can and will prove you a liar in minutes.

Finally we are seeing that powerful men, and for that matter powerful companies, can no longer just say "Oh.. sorry." If people don't believe in and trust your brand, and if they don't understand your moral purpose, you could be left out in the cold in much the same as Donald Sterling or Don Imus were.


Current And Former NBA Players React To Donald Sterling Controversy