The Teflon NFL now looking to remove the egg on its face

September 12, 2014

It’s Thursday Night Football at Manhattan’s Wharf Bar. Young professionals stream through the door to watch the Baltimore Ravens vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers at this unofficial “Ravens bar,” pulling NFL jerseys out of their backpacks and putting them on over button-up shirts and ties. A banner on the wall declares, “You’re in Ravens country.” A full hour before the game starts and it’s standing room only.

This display of fan loyalty comes despite the fact that just a few days prior, a video leaked to the public showing running back — and now ex-Raven — Ray Rice knocking a woman unconscious.

“Welcome to the madhouse,” a bouncer quips, observing the crowd.

NFL: Super Bowl XLVIII-Winning Team Press ConferenceIt’s this scene that the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, are counting on: diehard fans willing to separate an ugly domestic violence case and allegations of a cover-up from their passion for the game. But while NFL fans may be forgiving, experts say the league needs to be proactive in reestablishing trust with its customers.

The NFL faces a Congressional probe over the claims that it lacked transparency in its handling of the case. And accusations of dishonesty on the part of Goodell and other NFL employees complicate the task of rehabilitating the league’s image. With millions of viewers – and their wallets – on the line, the stakes are tremendously high for the football business.

“The NFL has been in crisis mode now for a while,” said Daniel Diermeier, Dean of the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago and an expert in reputation management. “There were, of course, the concussion issues and now we have the domestic violence issues. They have been, despite their success with the public, really under fire.”

“You have to ask yourself why is that and what can they do to bounce back?”

If the second Rice surveillance tape had not been released, “it would have been business as usual,” said Leigh Steinberg, a sports agent often credited as the inspiration behind film character Jerry Maguire. “I think [Goodell] needs to explain why Harvey Levin and TMZ and the reaction to the tape are setting policy on domestic violence in the NFL.”

“The NFL’s policy in some ways echoed the problematic nature of how the rest of society deals with domestic violence,” he added, “which is, in a way, to sort of sweep it under the rug.”

And the negative reaction from some has been vociferous. On Thursday a bipartisan group of female senators sent a letter to the NFL criticizing its handling of domestic violence cases. The National Organization of Women has called for Goodell’s resignation, and has called for the appointment of an independent investigator to look into domestic violence within the NFL. The league has appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller to lead an investigation, but some have questioned his law firm’s ties to the NFL.

“What they need to do is accept and admit that they have a violence against women problem – they don’t have a Ray Rice problem,” said Terry O’Neill, NOW’s president. “They need new leadership that will confront that problem.”

Most U.S. companies do not have a set domestic violence policy. Around 12 percent of businesses have a distinct program or policy on the issue, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data cited by the Boston Globe’s Evan Horowitz.

But crisis expert Mike Paul, known as the “Reputation Doctor”, argues that instituting a clear-cut league policy is the only way forward.

“This is not a legal issue – this is not even a league issue – and it’s not even a sports issue,” Paul said. “This is a moral issue.”

“The only way out of this is to say ‘that’s an abomination, it’s never going to happen again on my watch.’”

PHOTO: Feb 3, 2014; New York, NY, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during the winning team press conference the day after Super Bowl XLVIII at Sheraton New York Times Square. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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Private corporations (whatever that means) do not have a policy regarding domestic issues such as beating. True. Most private corporations do not build themselves up as role models for youth, do not have pubic money being used for stadiums, are not seen every week, three days out of seven on TV. The sports cartels, and they are cartels, do. That’s part of the difference.

Posted by Kahnie | Report as abusive