Friday, October 22, 2010


Here at Touchdowns & Fumbles, we love football—and not just because our name is, well, Touchdowns & Fumbles. We also love the drama, the high stakes, the action—and the penchant the gridiron gang has for PR foul-ups. Latest on the hit list: the NFL’s missteps in announcing what almost everyone agrees is a good policy of get tough with players who make illegal head shots. The league made the announcement while handing out a slew of fines from last weekend’s contests—tens of thousands of dollars to Brandon Meriweather of the Patriots, Dunta Robinson of the Atlanta Falcons, and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who got dinged $75,000 for an illegal hit to Cleveland Brown receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. Good policy? Sure—it’s all about saving lives, after all. But the league overlooked one small item: it was selling photos of the hits and the offenders on its website even as it said it was cracking down on them. After news reports picked up on the gaffe, Harrison, in a radio interview, accused the NFL of “wanting to get their money on the front end and the back end.” Lesson here: Before any public declaration, think about any potential vulnerabilities in terms of your organization’s reputation, and fix them before (not after) the big announcement. True, the NFL promptly removed the images. Still a fumble. But wait, there’s more: we’re going to give a fumble to Harrison, too, for his crybaby reaction to the fine. He complained that if he could not play the sport the way he wanted, which included trying to hurt people, then he would retire. A couple days later, he released a statement to the effect that in fact he would not retire, though not without taking a swipe at the league: “I cannot and will not let the league office stop me from playing the game I love.” And then he clarified that it was wrong of him to say that he intended to hurt people, when what he really meant was that he intended not to injure them. Oh, ok, now we get it. God, we love football…

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