Can the NFL Keep Control of the Bounty Scandal?

Author: Ramsey Poston
Published: March 13, 2012 at 5:43 am

The NFL revealed recently that its Security Department concluded a “lengthy” investigation determining that players on the New Orleans Saints and its defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, orchestrated a “bounty” program designed to injure opposing players and knock them out of games.

Immediately, the story spread throughout sports-talk radio and online media becoming a hot topic of discussion.  Soon it was revealed that similar programs were customary in Washington and Buffalo where Williams also coached. 

From a communications stand point, the NFL has done well to own and be in control of the story from the league perspective.  Doing so has allowed the NFL to set the tone of the media coverage and highlight how serious the league takes issues of player safety. 

The NFL communications strategy may also have been designed to demonstrate to plaintiff attorneys and federal investigators that it has the issue under control. 

In an NFL press release commissioner Roger Goodell said:

“It is our responsibility to protect player safety and the integrity of the game, and this type of conduct will not be tolerated.  We have made significant progress in changing the culture with respect to player safety and we are not going to relent.  We have more work to do and we will do it.”

The NFL also did well to get Williams’ “confession” on the record on the same day its bounty investigation was revealed.  In his statement, Williams was contrite:

“I want to express my sincere regret and apology to the NFL, Mr. Benson, and the New Orleans Saints fans for my participation in the ‘pay for performance’ program while I was with the Saints. It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it. Instead of getting caught up in it, I should have stopped it. I take full responsibility for my role. I am truly sorry. I have learned a hard lesson and I guarantee that I will never participate in or allow this kind of activity to happen again."

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Article Author: Ramsey Poston

Ramsey Poston is President of Tuckahoe Strategies. Poston has extensive experience managing high level communications issues for sports, business and political organizations.

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