Let me start by making it clear, I am a Philadelphia sports fan. This might in reality, make me biased. I apologize.

As I sat at FedEx Field watching the Philadelphia Eagles royally clobber the Washington Redskins November 15th there is one thought I couldn’t keep out of my mind: MICHAEL VICK IS AMAZING! Like any Millennial, this opinion also managed to creep on to my Twitter and Facebook. I even rubbed it in my friend-who is a Redskins fan-‘s face via text. It was his response however, that made me think maybe that Facebook post with multiple exclamations might not have been the best idea…The response? “You think a dog killer is amazing?”

There I was, torn between hailing a football victory and beating myself up mentally because I was cheering on a criminal. Michael Vick isn’t the first athlete to come under fire…hello Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Chipper Jones, Pete Rose, Donte Stallworth, Mike Tyson (I could go on and on). These men faced allegations of cheating, jail time, or other scandals. Some have faired better than others in repairing their image, some will probably never get the acclaim they are rightfully owed (cough Pete Rose cough). And why is this? For many individuals, personal behavior can mean far more than the work the person seeks to achieve.

In elections Americans vote on personality, and in the celebrity world those who haven’t ever created art in their lives can become famous because of who they date. Athletes suffer this same pressure, as they are often forced into the “role model” title. In my personal life, I am of the belief that athletes get far too much attention for their personal lives. I also think heroes should be your parents or selfless individuals like the those in military. However, as someone who has worked professionally in marketing and public relations, I know that is not the truth. Personal behavior can make or break you. The question is, how do public relations specialists get out of this trap?

Now let me make it clear, I will never condone what Michael Vick has done in the past. I could also make an argument about his rushing and passing game, or that the prison system is supposed to return people reformed so why give him so much slack when he did his time, but that is not what I want this blog to be about. Instead, let me say that I am not cheering for Vick because of what he does off-duty. The Eagles did not hire him for his extracirricular activities. Michael Vick is a quarterback, who preforms his job extremely well. When I cheer for him it is because of his game on the field, if I wear his jersey one day it is because I support him as a quarterback. Get the distinction? I do not have to like him (or condone his lifestyle), to support his work. Many Philadelphia fans and sports fans around the world will eventually support Vick because of his time on the football field, not his time in jail. Don’t believe it? Many Americans hail FDR as one of the greatest presidents in U.S. history, crediting his greatness to his work achievements like the New Deal, completely forgetting that he managed to have multiple affairs in the White House. Ah-hah! Image rehabilitation even crept its way into your history books!

People do not have to like your CEO, or they might get mad at your new security procedures (come back for my next blog on TSA), but you can get them to respect you for your work.

This concept is what can make or break attempts to rehabilitate an athlete’s image, or a company’s image. Focus too much on the personal behavior of an athlete, the personal life of a CEO, or the flaws in operations of a company and your image will go down the drain. Instead, focus on your work and the positives that come from what your organization produces or does best. People do not have to value everything about you or your organization, they just have to value what you provide for them and know that it is vital even despite the few flaws.