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Nate Schmidt's Loud Silence

October 2, 2018, 9:06 PM ET [5 Comments]
Sheng Peng
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From Nate Schmidt, it's been a loud silence.

Exactly one month since the announcement of Schmidt's 20-game suspension for violating the NHL's performance-enhancing drug policy and his subsequent written response, the defenseman has not yet been made available to speak to local or national media. The organization has stated that Schmidt will not speak to the media until his suspension concludes in mid-November.

Schmidt's silence is especially conspicuous because there was no Golden Knight more gregarious around the media last season.

But there might be good reason for Schmidt to go quiet now.

"Unless there is an update or a change in the case, there doesn’t seem to be a need for Schmidt to address the situation again," said Kristi Mexia, Public Relations Manager for Beck Media & Marketing. Beck is a Los Angeles-based PR agency specializing in sports, entertainment, and technology.

The Athletic intimated in early September, "Schmidt believes he unwittingly consumed a contaminated meat product this past spring, which ultimately triggered his positive test." There hasn't been a significant update since then.

"Depending on where an athlete is in a case, speaking to the media -- and introducing another variable -- could be detrimental to their overall goal," noted Mexia. "Or if they have a case to make, it could be very helpful."

While Schmidt has lost his official appeal, he's still on trial in the court of public opinion. Presumably, he would like to clear his name, if possible. But there's no case to make if even he isn't sure about the origin of the banned substance. And introducing another variable -- namely, himself, if he talks more -- has its risks.

Mexia asked, "Is the athlete in question comfortable answering questions in real time about a sensitive topic? Does he or she have a tendency to go off the cuff?"

Going "off the cuff" is certainly a danger for the bubbly blueliner and might outweigh the potential gains of facing the music early.

So where's the clear profit for Schmidt to speak to the press right now, especially if he has no new information? The defenseman could reveal the banned substance, but without the context of knowing the source of the substance, he'd just be opening himself up to further innuendo.

"The team, the player and his agent all issued statements from their perspective to address the issue," Mexia asserted. "Just because he’s not doing a press conference or continually talking with the media about this matter, doesn’t mean he or the team feel any less strong about it."

According to Mexia, however, Schmidt should consider talking if he gains important new information.

"It can be beneficial to reveal all the details, if you know them," she said, citing Maria Sharapova as an athlete who benefited from full disclosure.

In June 2016, the tennis star tested positive for meldonium. She faced a suspension of up to four years. But armed with full knowledge of how she ingested the performance enhancer -- it was doctor-prescribed from a time when the substance wasn't illegal -- the International Tennis Federation handed her a two-year suspension and declared that the "contravention of the anti-doping rules was not intentional." After further appeals, Sharapova was able to get her suspension reduced to 15 months. She also retained most of her sponsors, like Nike, Porsche, Evian, and Head.

While Schmidt isn't getting his suspension reduced, he can win the court of public opinion if he can establish a clear, credible chain between the source of the banned substance and his consumption of it. But if he can't?

Mexia suggested, "Barring any further updates in the case, I would encourage Schmidt to stand by his original statement. After he finishes his suspension, he should move on -- concentrate on the game -- so the fans and the media are commenting about his game, his involvement in the community.

"Leave this in the past."

(Update: George McPhee announced that Schmidt will be headed to Europe to practice with the Vienna Capitals over the next month. He will not play for them. Schmidt is not allowed to practice with the Golden Knights during his suspension and will return to the team when his suspension concludes.)


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