NFL wakes up, admits it’s wrong and acts appropriately — in the end


ISIS is the true crISIS.

The Washington pro football team’s name is still racist.

But a remarkable event took place yesterday in another crisis that’s very much worth noting.

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted he and the league made a mistake on its domestic violence stance. As William C. Rhoden wrote in The New York Times, just that fact is almost more stunning and newsworthy than the substance of the change.

Goodell kind of apologized, even. It’s almost like Buffalo’s “Wide Right” never happened. OK, maybe it’s not that miraculous.

Key elements to stemming a crisis is to take responsibility for the poor behavior and apologize, while promising to do better.

Goodell said:

“My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”

Goodell surely heard from his marketing people, who reminded him that half the NFL’s fans are women. And from his PR people, who told him regular season games might include pickets against the league’s lax reaction to domestic violence.

But he did the right thing — despite stubbornly defending his decision for six weeks. It’s not easy for anyone, especially a czar, to admit a mistake. [OK, he did it in a letter to owners, not in a true stand-up and take the heat news conference. But let’s not see if the gift box is ticking.] The new deal is a six-game suspension for the first offense and a season on the street for a second.

Surely you know that his initial response to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s video-recorded assault of his then girlfriend, now wife, Janay Palmer, was a two-game suspension. You may even know that the NFL boss docked a Cleveland Browns receiver an entire season — for marijuana use. That’s legal in Denver Broncos land.

Goodell sounded sincere. It would have been ideal if he’d added four more games or 14 more games to Rice’s jail time, but let’s not get giddy. Goodell quelled the crisis. This one anyway.

Now let’s hope he feels so good about this one, that the over-used state of momentum is cascading through him so fully that he realizes the Washington team name is racist and makes the team change it.

That would be news.

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 and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

 

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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