Ethics in Professional Sports

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It’s hard to turn on ESPN these days without hearing the latest scandal that has surfaced in one of the main professional sport leagues. We’ve seen it in the NFL with Deflategate, many times in baseball with PED and steroid use and with former LA Clipper owner, Donald Sterling in the NBA. Yes, there seems to be an ethical dilemma in professional sports that is much bigger than just the game. So how does one remain ethical and professional in a professional sports world that is so cluttered, especially from a PR standpoint? Below are a few tips.

Address the situation immediately.

If you wait longer than 24 hours to address an issue, it’s old news and you’re too late. The sooner you respond to a public issue regarding your coaching staff, players and fans, the better. This shows not only the public that you’re on top of the situation and have a firm grasp on it but also the members of your organization. If you do not know much about what is going on right at the moment, still address it. Inform the media or the public that you’re looking into the matter and you will issue additional information as soon as it becomes available. NEVER respond with, “no comment.” This is a green light for the media to go ahead and draft the story how they please and run wild with speculation.

Let the public know what is being done.

Face it, people are curious and the public wants answers. What’s going to happen to the Boston Red Sox organization after the latest Apple Watch scandal where they were caught stealing signs from the New York Yankees through the device? How many games is a team’s quarterback going to be suspended from? How is the league commissioner going to handle the statements made by one of its owners, players or coaches? The public want to know that something is being done, as well as what it is.

Make the tough calls.

Maintaining your image during a time of crisis is the main priority for any organization, especially a professional sports team. Nobody wants a negative tag put on them because of an incident so making the tough calls is key. If somebody in the organization has really screwed up, such as Donald Sterling’s racist remarks towards African-Americans, make the tough call. Adam Silver, NBA commissioner, gave Donald Sterling a lifetime ban from the NBA along with a $2.5 million fine. The NBA also forced Donald to sell the team and surrender his position as owner of the Clippers.

Move on.

Finally, move on from the issue. Don’t let one allegation take over an entire season or offseason. The more you talk and focus on an issue the more you’re allowing the public to continue conversation. Follow the three steps above and then move on. Focus on the rest of your season and making your fans happy.

Sports and ethics can be challenging. Have any more to add to the topic of ethics and professional sports? Keep the conversation going below!

Riley Nordquist is a senior at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, SD majoring in communication studies and minoring in media studies. Riley is a member of the PRSSA National Industry News & Current Events Subcommittee and serves as both vice president of strategy and firm Director for his Chapter of PRSSA. Connect with Riley on Twitter and LinkedIn.  

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