Professional sports have been known to fail in the public relations world. Commissioners are boo’ed at Championship games like they are Illinois’ former Governor Pat Quinn at Chicago sport ceremonies. I still remember when the Chicago Blackhawks won in 2010 and Quinn spoke at the rally, only to receive negative attention from the 2 million-plus attendees. I continue to laugh when I think back to the last couple of Stanley Cup Final games when NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman, presented the cup to a stadium with cries of disapproval from hockey fans. Of course, the most infamous PR blunder (of the 21st Century) award of professional sports goes to the Roger Goodell and the NFL for the Ray Rice scandal and continued mishandling of deflategate (click HERE for updates about the ongoing battle). The NFL has much to recover from and may not until Goodell is out of commission.
Even though the sports world continues to struggle in the PR department, progress is being made. Most recently, the NHL and Chicago Blackhawks had to deal with the rape accusations of their player Patrick Kane. Unfortunately for Kane, he was removed from the the NHL 2k16 game as soon as allegations hit the media – only to receive much backlash from hockey fans. Bad move for the NHL because the accuser dropped charges, the mother of the accuser lied about tampering of evidence, witness testimonies didn’t contain any incriminating content, and Kane had one of the best seasons of his career. The Blackhawks remained neutral, responded quickly with a press conference as soon as allegations surfaced and performed their own investigation – which found Kane not guilty of accusations. So, who really lost? The NHL. Who thrived? The Chicago Blackhawks organization. The lesson? Do not act on such situations without an appropriate investigation; release a statement or hold a press conference in a timely (but quickly) manner; and make sure the organization speaks as new information is discovered and not respond rashly.
For future reference: learn from your peers and do not hide or attempt to destroy/conceal evidence. Be open, speak in a neutral tone and be honest. Lying only injures a team/organizations image. In the name of PR, take control and retain credibility.