These 4 Things Would Have Happened to Save The NFL From Having a PR Crisis

Ray Rice and wife, Janay Rice. Photo credit: Patrick Semansky/AP and New Yorker. Crisis Communications. PR. Tampa FL Above Promotions Company
Ray Rice and wife, Janay Rice. Photo credit: Patrick Semansky/AP and New Yorker. Crisis Communications. PR. Tampa FL Above Promotions Company
Ray Rice and wife, Janay Rice. Photo credit: Patrick Semansky/AP and New Yorker.

We are so excited to have with us Selam Belay who is our University of South Florida Mass Communications intern for the fall semester. Being able to master a crisis is important and imparting these skills in the next generations of professional is vital to their career’s survival.

Below you will find 4 Things we believe should have happened back when the Ray Rice domestic violence controversy first occurred. After a healthy discussion on the topic between Selam and Above Promotions Company’s owner, Ebony Grimsley, she drafted a great list of things which could have helped to place the National Football League (NFL) in a better place today if they were implemented immediately.

Read on for great tips.


In case you haven’t heard by this time, NFL Star, Ray Rice, has been publicly shamed for beating his then fiancée, Janay Rice in an elevator and subsequently dragging her body. The incident initially occurred at the beginning of the year, but has definitely returned to destroy the credibility of the NFL running back, along with the league itself. The NFL star was punished with a 2 game suspension immediately preceding the incident. However, once the surveillance videos from inside the elevator were exposed by TMZ, NFL fans, NFL players, and women nationwide expressed extreme outrage resulting in the most recent punishment, complete termination of Rice’s contract.

The dynamics of this controversy leaves the NFL in the spotlight with thousands of people demanding answers. What could the NFL have done when the incident first occurred to avoid the current crisis? Let’s review four steps that could have been taken to help the league avoid its current negative image.

1) Remain open at all times.

When the incident occurred in March, the NFL did not publicly discuss any punishment or details on to the review process. It wasn’t until July that the organization publicly shared a suspension. After this communication from the NFL, there were no official releases posted to their site on behalf of the organization. Instead the public was left to wait for statements released to the media along with a few tweets from the NFL along with the NFL commissioner’s office. When dealing with a situation as sticky as this one it’s important to remain completely open with detail to ensure the public no information is being hidden. When the full video surfaced regarding the fight between Ray and Janay, many looked at the NFL as being “shady” in hopes of protecting a star athlete. Even though the organization has released statements proclaiming that they have not seen the newly released tapes, the public eye questioned the level of knowledge the league truly had from the beginning. The NFL has now been pushed to new extremes and forced to hire FBI investigators to prove they had no previous knowledge of the released tapes.

2) Keep your audience updated.

It is always best to be the first to report your issue than to have someone else report it for you. The league should have made every attempt to reach out to the public in a more formal, timely matter. The public should have been updated with information discovered or actions being taken. The NFL commissioner kept his decisions in the dark and left many to wonder if he was covering anything up. The audience was not updated along the way which left more than enough room for confusion and accusations to come about. Now that Goodell has awarded Rice with a more severe punishment, the audience now wonders if he did so after being placed under great amounts of public pressure.

3) Express Empathy.

It is always important to express to the public that a brand does not stand for criminal actions. So yes, termination of Rice’s contract was a step to show empathy and understanding of domestic violence, but it came all too late. It left the lasting impression that severe action was only taken to satisfy the public’s outcries. Public statements, press releases, and conferences scheduled around the initial occurrence would have landed the NFL organization in a more steady position when the incriminating tapes were released.

4) Careful moderation of social media

Social media indeed plays a major role in communication today. It’s important to carefully monitor what messages are being published because the wrong tweet is just as detrimental as choosing the wrong words in a nationally aired press conference. The NFL released a tweet from their twitter account stating, “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.” This tweet was taken down nearly three months later. This tweet furthermore portrayed Janay as a willing party of domestic violence and not a victim which is how the public perceives her. The release of this message portrayed that the NFL supported her regrets. Instead, messages should have been released that would engage other victims and provide them with inspiring encouragement or messages that showed dismay towards the incident.

With even CoverGirl striking back with an ad targeting the NFL and domestic violence. The best thing the NFL can do to gain ground and trust is to reconnect and reconcile with their core audience most affected by the incident. It will be no easy task to regain the trust, but necessary.


What do you think? Would these tips have helped the NFL? Do you have more?

Do you think the NFL will have this straightened out before October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month, where they spend money marketing to the female audience?

Let us know your thoughts. They may be used in a future article.


Selam Belay is a senior studying mass communications at the University of South Florida. Born and raised in Orlando, Florida, she quickly realized her passion for the fast paced entertainment and media world. As a current intern for the Above Promotions Company, she is eagerly perfecting her skills and preparing herself for a long future in public relations. Selam is set to graduate Spring 2015.

Above Promotions is a digital marketing and public relations agency with B2C clients that promote brands in the food, fashion and family entertainment industries. We build and protect brands by creating and executing digital resources to sell products or build positive public sentiment. From a local to international market, Above Promotions Company can provide the exposure that goes above your expectations. Visit today.
Ebony T. Grimsley is the Creative Director and Owner of Above Promotions Company. She is also the author of “Because You’re Small: Effective Marketing Strategies for Immediate Implementation” which is sold on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other stores and a contributor to various media outlets.




2 thoughts on “These 4 Things Would Have Happened to Save The NFL From Having a PR Crisis

  1. Very nice article Ebony! I think you really covered what has gone on here and the question remains, what will happen going forward. I think the most important thing is the behavior of football and I am sure all sports professionals will now be under scrutiny. It is no longer the good old boys club.
    Did they handle it right? of course not, is it a great lesson for all other teams to learn and grow by? absolutely.
    I hope it seeps to every corner of the world that abuse is not to be overlooked, whether it be against a female or a male.
    Thanks for a great share!
    Brenda Ellison-

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