It’s Not a Matter of IF It Is a Matter of When

by Jaque Poll 

Richard Sherman

Even if you’re not a football fan, you’ve probably heard about Super Bowl XLVIII and the less than entertaining game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. What was set up to be a showdown between the number one offense and the number one defense, turned out to be a one sided beat-down by Seattle. Perhaps an even bigger story going into the game, however, was the remarks made by Seattle’s defensive corner, Richard Sherman.

Two weeks prior to the Super Bowl, Sherman blasted wide receiver Michael Crabtree of the San Francisco 49ers on national television during a live post-game interview with reporter Erin Andrews after an emotional win in the NFC championship game.  Just minutes after making arguable the best defensive play of his career, which ultimately propelled the Seahawks into Super Bowl XLVIII, Sherman was asked by Andrews to take her through the final play of the game. Without hesitation Sherman said, “ Well I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gon’ get! Don’t you ever talk about me!” Taken back by Sherman’s response, Andrews followed up with the question of who was talking about him. “Crabtree,” Sherman said, “don’t you open your mouth about the best! Or Imma shut it for you real quick L-O-B!”

Within minutes, the social media world blew up! No one was talking about the remarkable play that won the game, instead the general population was infuriated with his actions and they way he addressed Andrews.

This whole situation then begs the question, what do you do if you’re a sports PR professional and your client makes remarks such as these on national television, or is perhaps caught doping, or found to be a ring leader of an illegal underground dog fighting league? How do you deal with these PR nightmares?

Here are a few quick tips that will help you in any type of crisis situation, sports related or not:

  • Be proactive and own the situation before it gets out of hand.  With the Richard Sherman incident, he handled himself the way he should have. Shortly after the NFC title game, Sherman addressed reporters saying he “regretted” the comments made. “Last week I felt like I regretted just attacking a man – attacking it and taking away from my teammates,” Sherman said. “You never want to talk down on a man to build yourself up and things like that. So I regretted that, and I regretted taking that attention away from my teammates. That’s the one thing that I wish I could do again.”
  • Be vigilant and use technology to your advantage. Social media can be a powerful tool. Just be sure to use it wisely!
  • Have a plan of action already established before the crisis even happens. The best thing you can do for yourself is to know your client. Know their strengths and weaknesses and be prepared to act and react based of this knowledge. You can never know too much about your client
  • Address the issue, follow it and don’t ignore it

Again, with the Sherman incident, he quickly addressed the media and stated he regretted making those comments in the heat of the moment. The initial incident took the media by storm, which made it hard to ignore. Both some good and bad things came out of it in the end.

As PR professionals, it’s not a question of if you’ll run into these types of situations but rather when you’ll run into these situations. Be prepared well in advance and both you and your client will be grateful.

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. I love the advice you give on how to PR for athletes! I love that you said don’t ignore it! I think that is the biggest mistake a PR professional can do is act like nothing happened. Good job!

  2. Great tips for working with Athletes. I think these tips can be used across the board for any industry PR professionals work with. Thanks for the advice.

  3. I totally agree with this article if Sherman had stopped being ridiculous after the post-game incident. Instead, he continued to make the situation worse with other interviews. It is important as a PR Practitioner to teach your client how to handle themselves when they get thrust into the spotlight in a negative way… his people obviously didn’t.

  4. I agree with Shaquille on this one. It is really hard to believe his apology considering he said the same thing after his rant. It was not until the firestorm of negative comments that his PR team regrouped and he changed his words. But in sports that is not surprising. With Sherman supposedly being a highly intelligent Communication major, his behavior did not match the supposed intelligence that everyone claims he has.

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