This is really just a very preliminary draft…
Recent events involving major American football operations have provided the source material for a handy guide to crisis management by big-time sports entities. Drawing most immediately on the responses of the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens, Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers and the University of Michigan, here’s what we’ve learned:
1) never get out front of a controversial action. Always make sure that your first response is to downplay, poo-poo or otherwise dismiss criticisms.
1a) – spend a lot of time emphasizing the importance of “accountability’ even as you are obviously dodging it yourself. Bonus points for college coaches who, when facing any charges of misconduct, suddenly deny they are in any way responsible for what happens to the “student-athletes” under their charge.
1b) treat everyone else as if they are idiots, who can’t see, in the face of clear cut visual evidence, what seems blatantly obvious.
1b2) act as if your studied ignorance of the circumstances makes you look any better than if you were simply lying.
2) when you do decide to issue something approaching an actual apology, try to do so in written form sometime between midnight and 4am Eastern time (see Minnesota Vikings and University of Michigan).
3) when you do send some organizational leader in front of the cameras to face the music, make sure they act fecklessly. Remember, your goal here is to confirm everyone’s worst suspicions about you.
4) even while apologizing, attempt to continue to cover your ass. Michigan AD Dave Brandon illustrated this nicely in his apologia for the university’s disgraceful handling of QB Shane Morris’ injuries Saturday. Brandon’s statement acknowledged that Morris had, after all, sustained a “probable” concussion.
Here’s what ESPN had to say about that little sleight-of-hand:
The term “probable mild concussion” in Brandon’s statement is not a medical diagnosis that most neurologists would use, according to multiple doctors who spoke with ESPN.com on Tuesday.
Kelley Anderson, a sports medicine specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said she couldn’t address Morris’ specific injury, but her team of doctors wouldn’t use the term probable.
“If he’s completed the evaluation, at that point you start to say it is or it isn’t,” Anderson said. “Our typical terminology we use is, ‘Do they have a concussion or not?'”
(see 1a above – under “accountability.”)
5) spend as much time as possible speaking in urgent terms about how you have to “get it right” and “must learn,” as if you’re committed to anything other than CYA (see 3).
6) keep talking about your organization’s “values,” as if everyone else doesn’t know you only have one. More specifically, keep talking about how concerned you are about matters which, it’s screamingly obvious, you didn’t care about at all until you started getting hammered for your negligence.
To repeat, only a preliminary sketch.