If you’ve been near a television, radio or basically any social media outlet over the last couple of days, you’ve heard about Donald Sterling and his less than appealing commentary. In short, Sterling made negative comments about his girlfriend being friends with “blacks” and said he did not want them at his games. Once the audio of his remarks were made public, Clippers players as well as the NBA were outraged. In response, the NBA banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million dollars. Anyone else think Sterling is kicking himself right now?!
As PR people (note applicable to all human beings), this mess can serve as a teaching moment for several reasons. Numero uno: Nothing you say is private if your life is public, meaning if you live in the public eye, you are vulnerable to have whatever you say and do examined by the world. In Sterling’s case, the comments he made were said in private but clearly it didn’t make a difference. It’s important to make our clients aware of this and make sure they know what they can and cannot say in various situations.
Point number two: Trust no one. Now, this is a hard sell because you need people in your life to talk to. But for those in the public eye, it’s important for them to realize not everyone should know every detail of their lives. There are bad people out there who just want to get close to someone for the story or the almighty dollar. Public figures and celebrities need to keep this in the back of their minds.
No one is denying that what Sterling said was completely wrong. He should be held accountable for his actions regardless of where or when he made these comments. One could argue, though, that more severe acts have been committed with minimal consequences. For example, Riley Cooper of the Philadelphia Eagles made racist comments at a concert. He was fined as a result of his actions but is still an active player within the NFL. I understand each sport’s leadership is different but Sterling’s lifetime ban versus Cooper’s fine makes me wonder. Other athletes, say Michael Vick for example, have gotten away with far worse too.
The bottom line is people, public figures or otherwise, need to be held accountable for their actions. PR people need to aid their clients in being responsible for their words and actions. Donald Sterling’s situation is unfortunate but can be used as a lesson for all of us.
I guess I’m going for a sports theme this week! I am an avid football fan and look forward to the Superbowl every year. While my New York Giants were not in attendance, I still tuned in for the game. This year, I really watched the game through a public relations lens, meaning I thought about the positive and negative PR aspects of the entire event. I actually kept a list of touchdowns (pros) and fumbles (cons) from a PR professional’s perspective during the game. Here’s are my thoughts:
- The Entertainment: I understand the Superbowl should be about football but by having megastars Alicia Keys and Beyonce perform, you are appealing to a larger audience. You know certain people just tuned in to see these divas perform, thus increasing ratings. Additionally, having children from Netwown, Connecticut sing was the perfect way to honor the memory of all those who lost their lives earlier in the year. A lot of NFL players were in touch with families who lost loved ones so it was an appropriate connection.
- The Game: Well, obviously the game should be the main focus but sometimes it isn’t. This year, the game proved to be highly entertaining and a nail biter towards the end. Hopefully, the competitive showing by both teams helped the NFL recover from its big blunder of the night.
- Oreo: Whoever created the advertisement that went viral during the blackout should be promoted immediately! In response to the blackout during the game, Oreo send out an ad over Twitter and Facebook that captured the essence of the brand. The ad was fantastic, but it was even better that Oreo had a social media plan in place for such an event.
- The Blackout: Of course, this was the biggest problem of the night. I understand things happen that are out of our control. However, you are the NFL and this is your most important event of the year. From the lack of information to the ridiculously long delay, it was clear to see that the NFL did not have a blackout as part of their crisis communication plan. Bet they learned their lesson.
- The Commercials: Except for all of two commercials, companies did not hit creative gold this year. Most commercials were confusing or utterly disturbing (see GoDaddy). You pay all this money for prime advertising space just to say we’re all farmers or to broadcast old people making out. Customers deserve more.
- The Players: I feel like this year more than ever, the players in the Superbowl made some silly comments. First example: Joe Flacco using the word retarded to describe playing at MetLife Stadium before the game. Then he dropped an F-bomb after winning while his mic was still on. Ray Lewis as a preacher might offend some people. My advice: hire a publicist to write statements for you. You have the money to do it.
I enjoyed watching the Superbowl this year. It felt good to take everything I’ve learned in school and apply it to a real-life event. I have noticed more and more that I view situations and events through my PR lens. Can’t lie, I love it! Goes to show that I chose the right career!
What were your favorite parts of the Superbowl? Share your thoughts with me!
On Saturday morning, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot himself at Arrowhead Stadium after killing his girlfriend. The 25 year-old professional football player hadn’t missed a start with the Chiefs since he began there in 2009. Belcher and his girlfriend leave behind a 3-month old baby girl. Both the Chiefs’ head coach and general manager witnessed the suicide early Saturday morning.
All of the Kansas City Chiefs players commented that Belcher was a great teammate and someone who worked hard on and off the field. Everyone around him didn’t see any warning signs and can’t grasp why Belcher would end his life. A professional athlete whose dream came true with supportive teammates and a baby daughter; what could have been so bad that he chose to take such drastic measures?
While the actions of Jovan Belcher were tragic, one positive lesson that comes from this situation is the attention it draws to mental illness. Clearly, Belcher was not in his right state of mind when he went trigger happy on Saturday morning. Mental illness does not discriminate or come with a warning. All different types of people suffer from depression, rage, anxiety and various other problems that put them into a dark place. Sometimes there are warning signs, but usually there aren’t. The only real way to help those suffering from mental illness is to remove the stigma from such diseases. People should not be afraid to talk about what they are feeling, regardless of how extreme.
The Kansas City Chiefs released a statement Saturday saying how great a loss it was and sent prayers to his family. More importantly, the Chiefs did not become involved in any of the speculated drama between Belcher and his girlfriend. They focused their message on the loss of their teammate. The most poignant statement was the Chiefs continuing to play their game on Sunday to honor their fallen teammate and his love for the game.
In response to the Jevon Belcher suicide, the NFL launched a suicide help line for current and former NFL players. All phone calls will be kept confidential and the service will be ran independently from the NFL. On their website, there are a series of videos featuring NFL players including Brett Favre telling players that it is okay to ask for help. This is an important step for the NFL to take in order to support all its players. It is also a smart, conscious response to a crisis that shines a positive light on a negative situation.
The Kansas City Chiefs at Sunday’s game
I am beyond happy to see the NFL aid its players in the real struggle they are facing today. By bringing the issue of suicide to the forefront, hopefully other players and people will be able to get help. Suicide is not something to joke about and must be taken seriously. If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, remember there are people out there to help you.