The NFL and its Lingering PR Problem

The National Football League is arguably the most popular sporting league in the world. It won’t remain that way unless there’s a better effort to discipline players who consistently damage its reputation. Roger Goodell & Co. conduct business as usual with a “too big to fail” mentality, but if they don’t address this pressing issue soon it could lead to harsh consequences for the league and each of its 32 NFL franchises.

Since the Super Bowl in February, 27 active NFL players have been arrested for a number of different crimes. Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is one of those 27, pinned with murder and five related gun charges just two short weeks ago. I thought the Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick incidents would be enough to push the NFL to make drastic changes to its player misconduct policies, but apparently not.

The league’s public relations crisis should be broken down, analyzed and mitigated with a strategic plan. The NFL has the reputation as the most competitive football league in the world, but off-field issues involving players continue to damage that reputation. Decision makers have been reactive instead of proactive in combating player misconduct. To salvage the league’s image and restore credibility with the fans, media, and other stakeholders, these steps should be taken by the NFL:

  1. Set a long-term goal that will be the main focus of your efforts. In this case, “Decrease the number of off-field player incidents.”
  2. Establish strategies, which are the broad approaches you’ll take to achieve the goal. Revising player misconduct policies and enforcing stricter penalties and repercussions are a few good examples.
  3. Identify measurable objectives that will be used to see if the strategies are being met. Banning or suspending players who act out could be an objective that’s easily measured to see if player misconduct decreases due to increased player bans and indefinite suspensions.
  4. Tactics need to be implemented to achieve the already set strategies and objectives on a day-to-day basis. Working with the press to get the message out about revised policies and forcing players to seek professional help to fix behavioral issues are a few useful tactics that will aid in achieving long-term goals.

This problem is not going away anytime soon. It’s imperative for the NFL to take action and not just expect the problem to fix itself. Like any successful PR campaign, a lot of planning, research and good execution will lead to better results for the league.

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Jason Collins And The NBA’s Unique Branding Opportunity

If you haven’t heard of Jason Collins before today you’re not alone. He’s kept a low profile during his 12-year career as a professional basketball player in the NBA, but today he became the first openly gay male professional athlete in a major American professional team sport.

For the professional sports community, this announcement couldn’t have come at a better time. While society becomes more accepting of equal rights and treatment for the LGBT community, there’s been a growing stigma surrounding homosexuality in professional sports. Collins broke that barrier this week, and he will go down in history as a man and player who forever changed the face of professional sports.

This amazing story of courage and strength should push the NBA to build on this narrative and strengthen their global brand with the LGBT community and its supporters. It’s a great opportunity for Collins, David Stern (NBA Commissioner) and the league to lead the conversation surrounding this controversial topic. Athletes should feel comfortable coming out during their careers and not being discriminated against for their sexuality. An NBA campaign that focuses on LGBT issues would unite players and bring together fans to create a new culture around homosexuality in the NBA. Other professional sports leagues might even be inspired to create their own campaigns and come together as people to address this issue.

Organizations try to identify worthy causes to get behind. The NBA should use Jason’s story as a way to align their brand with progressive values that are more prevalent in sports and society today.

It’s 2013, public sentiment is shifting in support of LGBT rights and equality. Strong support of Collins and the overarching issue will show the world that the NBA values authenticity, acceptance, fairness and equality. Branding aside, it’s something truly special to witness for Jason. After years in the dark, he finally gets to live an honest life and hopefully inspire other athletes to come out and embrace their sexuality.

The Euros: An American Guide

“Why has there been soccer on every day for the past month?” says the American viewer in search of baseball, SportsCenter and college football.

“It’s the World Cup I bet!” shouts the seasonal soccer fan that becomes a die-hard when the World Cup comes around every four years.

The football inundating your television screens is the UEFA European Football Championship, better known as the Euros. It can be described as the World Cup’s talented, respectable younger sibling. For one month, the 24 best teams in Europe embark on a journey to hoist the Euro Cup Trophy as champions. It’s football, but not the kind you’re used to on the gridiron.

There’s a noticeable difference in passion and enthusiasm when countries gather to compete against each other. The respect, pride and love each player has for their respective country fuels the competitiveness of Europe’s most prestigious soccer tournament. The Euros give the World Cup a run for its money. Most of the top-tier teams in the World Cup hail from Europe. Put those teams in one tournament and you have a great month of soccer starring the best players in the world. You don’t need to be a fan of the game to appreciate and respect nations striving to be the best club in Europe.

Citizens can forget the troubles plaguing their lives and countries and come together as fans and friends of the beautiful game. As hosts of Euro 2016, that’s exactly what France did after the devastating Paris attacks in November 2015. When terrorism tries to tear a country apart, soccer unifies cities and countries with lasting alliances and rich histories.

Social, political or economic troubles can dampen a country’s spirits, but soccer tournaments like the Euros and World Cup are there to keep morale high. The entertainment value soccer and sports provide are unparalleled. But sometimes it’s not about sport. It’s about pride for your country, the place you call home. The Euros are more than just a tournament, they’re more like home.