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How Hugh Freeze Can Recover From a Public Sex Scandal

Some tips from the Rex Ryan foot-fetish playbook

Bible-thumping hypocrite Hugh Freeze was pushed out of his high-profile college football coaching job at the University of Mississippi last week after he was alleged to have called an escort from a university phone. The university says the call was part of a larger pattern of inappropriate behavior, but failed to elaborate on what exactly that pattern was.

We here at MEL would never be ones to slut- or sex work-shame, but Freeze’s termination seems like divine retribution for a guy who never missed an opportunity to invoke the Lord, Our Savior and/or Jesus Christ in speaking with his players or the media. Just a week before the scandal broke, Freeze spoke on a podcast about how he overcame his struggles against sin as a young man. And the man literally compared himself to Jesus Christ last year when his program was under investigation.

Freeze now joins the likes of Tiger Woods, Hugh Grant, Paul Reubens aka Pee-wee Herman and a laundry list of disgraced male televangelists and politicians whose careers were torn asunder by their own horniness. Almost all of these men would’ve benefited from a more progressive culture, where sex work was legal, monogamy wasn’t mandated and a person’s professional competence was viewed as distinct from their sexual proclivities.

Short of that (and even with that in mind), they should follow the lead of Rex Ryan, the currently unemployed football coach who deftly moved past a sex scandal when he ran the New York Jets.

In late 2010, Deadspin unearthed a foot fetish video Ryan shot with his wife. Ryan wasn’t fired in the wake of its surfacing, nor was he even shamed all that much. If anything, people kind of felt bad for the couple. The closest Ryan came to a public flogging was when Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker made a bunch of foot puns in a press conference. (Welker later apologized.)

Ryan’s ability to quickly move on from the story was a work of public-relations genius, and that more haven’t followed his playbook is baffling. So here I present to you the officially unofficial Rex Ryan guide to burying a sex scandal.

Cover Your Gosh Darn Tracks

Freeze’s firing could’ve easily been avoided had he invested in a burner phone, instead of using a campus landline to call up a local prostitute. The NCAA is notorious for ignoring coaches’ indiscretions, including DUIs, recruiting violations and, yes, even sexual improprieties. Rick Pitino remains head coach of the Louisville men’s basketball team despite one of his assistant coaches hiring prostitutes to sleep with players. Did Pitino know about the prostitution ring? Probably. But can anyone prove that? No. That’s a little thing called “plausible deniability,” my friends, and it’ll save your job (provided you’re a big-time college coach).

Mistakes are much harder to excuse when they involve company property, or if they’re clearly documented via call logs, or some other form of communications. If you’re going to engage in some potentially embarrassing sexual behavior, at least make it hard for the authorities to catch you. Use a second phone. Use an incognito browser to access questionable websites. And use a dummy email account with a name that’s not your own.

Cultivate the Image of a Lovable Doofus

Much of why Ryan was able to so quickly move on from his kink going public is that he’s always projected the image of a charming buffoon. He comes from the George W. Bush School of Management, which says that you can achieve anything as long as people think it’d be fun to have a beer with you. So when news hit that Ryan sucks toes, the response was essentially, “Lol, Ryan likes feet. What will that crazy old coot do next?!”

Avoid Moral Grandstanding to Begin With

On a related note, it never helps to project an image as a do-gooder, family-values type. Tiger Woods’ downfall was so rapid because his image was of a well-polished, soft-spoken family man, when in reality he had the sex drive of a thousand pubescent teenagers. Ted Haggard was a homophobic televangelist before he was outed for having gay affairs. And Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner and John Edwards all portrayed themselves as righteous crusaders for justice — before being revealed as escort-loving, dick pic-sending, philandering liars (respectively). Freeze was similarly hypocritical.

In the end, then, the acts each man committed are only egregious in the context of a sex-negative culture. What is egregious is when those very men contribute to that sex negativity themselves.

Shut the Fuck Up for a While

It’s the single greatest piece of advice that no one can ever seem to heed. If you wake up to find intimate details of your sex life swirling around the internet, the best thing you can do in most cases is to have your loved ones lock you in an internet-proof room for a few days until the firestorm subsides. For Christ’s sake, it’s the internet: There will be a new scandal for people to fuss over soon enough, and yours will quickly be forgotten.

Last month, Vanity Fair editor Kurt Eichenwald accidentally outed himself as an anime porn aficionado (lol). But rather than let his touch with viral infamy run its course, Eichenwald denied his love for Japanese cartoon sex, only drawing more attention to the issue and inspiring more trolling.

When Ryan’s tape reached the public, he didn’t deny he made it, but he didn’t admit it, either. He essentially said, “Mind your own damn business,” and people mostly did just that.

Shame the Media for Kink-Shaming You

Shortly after the video surfaced, Ryan pulled a remarkable act of public relations jiu-jitsu and convinced the world he and his wife were the victims, and that the sex-negative media should be ashamed for casting judgment on them. He was absolutely right in this respect, but it was an amazing feat given our Puritanical culture. Far too often, men get defensive when in a situation like Ryan’s, and that only legitimizes the criticism.

Have a Sense of Humor About It

Over the years, Ryan has learned to neutralize his foot-fetish stigma with laughs. When Welker goaded him about it at a press conference, he brushed it off saying, “I can take it.” He keeps a photo of his wife’s feet on his desk. And this past summer, when Ryan encountered a bachelorette party in Nashville and one of the women flashed him her feet, he reportedly winked at her and said, “You know what I like.”

By contrast, e-sports personality Jack Campbell quit the industry last month after he, too, was revealed to be into feet. Now he wants to start an anti-bullying foundation to protect people like him from being publicly shamed on the internet. Which is great! But Campbell also might benefit from learning to live his truth unabashedly, and laugh with the trolls instead of fighting them.

After all, as Ryan has proved, if you let your freak flag fly, sooner or later people will learn to come to accept it.