A Lesson From Ray

Ray Rice and his wife, Jamie Palmer at a press conference regarding the domestic abuse allegation. Source: CBS Sports

We are all familiar with the scandal of Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice regarding the allegations of sexual assault. Although this issue is slightly outdated, it is always the first one that comes into mind when I think of ethics and PR. I am an avid Ravens fan, along with a student on PR track, so this crisis hit close to home. In addition, I am particularly interested in the crisis management aspect of public relations, something that the PR professionals lacked during this disaster.

What Happened

According to The NY Times, The Ravens said they never saw the video of Rice assaulting his wife until it was released by TMZ. They said they enforced the two-game suspension prior to the video. However, ESPN said within hours of the incident in February, the head of security was given a detailed description of the video and that the video was sent for investigation in April. Once the video went viral in September, the punishment changed to an indefinite suspension.

In addition to poor judgment in regards to the consequences, the NFL was also very passive with the media. Roger Goodell did not publicly speak and apologize in a timely manner. They cared more about the public reaction and saving face instead of the underlying issue of domestic abuse; an issue so serious and personal to many. This caused great backlash from the public.

An example of the Twitter backlash after this scandal. Source: BBC News

Was the Crisis Avoidable? 

With better public relations, this whole crisis would have been avoidable. PR professionals are expected to act with the upmost honesty in everything they do. My own editor’s credo states, “I will prevent any legal or ethical problems by being accurate and honest in what I do.” If these professionals had a credo like mine with values like honesty and accuracy, they could have prevented this crisis. I think the NFL definitely uses cases like this to improve their public relations policies in the future.