Nicholas Dawidoff’s book on the NFL, Collision Low Crossers, is an especially hot property in the wake of the report for the league on the Miami Dolphins bullying case and Missouri’s Michael Sam outing himself last week as the first openly gay draft choice.
That the NFL lurches from crisis [a team refusing to change its a racist-epithet name] to crisis [another front-line player arrested over the weekend] to crisis [the injury rate is nearly 100 percent on NFL teams and a federal judge found that a $750 million injury settlement for former players is too little] is clear. That league officials don’t seem to notice is a perfect example of how not to handle crises.
But it’s in Dawidoff’s book on the New York Jets’ 2011-12 season that we see how strange, coded and insular the league’s culture is. Some teams are likely more or less so, but given the inbred coaching chains that repeatedly emerge, they’re all probably similar.
The league has a bullying crisis, following the report on Dolphins players Richie Incognito and his victim, Jonathan Martin. Reaction to the independent report borders on nausea. There’s not a corporation in America that would put up with such an employment culture.
The league has a head injury crisis that’s years in the making and as many in the defensive denial.
And the league has a crisis about acceptance of gay players, of which there are dozens if not scores currently playing. But obviously all fear for their livelihoods, and even their lives given the Incognito rants, if they were to come out like Sam.
This is the paragon of American sport? This is the model for bright, athletic, successful men? Commissioner Roger Goodell, [reportedly paid $44 million in 2011] in his annual state of the league news conference prior to the Super Bowl, was in denial.
There are so many parallels to the NFL “not getting it.” He sounded like newspaper publishers 15 years ago not worrying about internet-based competition; or encyclopedia salesmen in the same time frame. Honestly, he sounded like Gen. Custer before Little Big Horn and acted like the proverbial dinosaur that ran off a cliff between the time its brain registered danger and its hind legs could apply the brakes.
Denial of a crisis is one of the most effective ways to prolong it.
At least the NFL is good at something.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.