NBA Fallout Continues As NAACP Head Resigns

 NBA Fallout Continues As NAACP Head Resigns

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the NAACP. (Pictured: former NAACP LA President Leon Jenkins.)

Even when public relations scandals are properly handled, they can continue to thrive when an event triggers a national conversation. Last week, the National Basketball Association banned Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, from the NBA for life after racist statements he allegedly made went public. Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar pointed out that Sterling’s racism had been known about for years; action was taken after bad press went viral. Spurred by the larger issue of racism in America, the media continued to look for a story – and found one, in Sterling’s association with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Los Angeles NAACP President Leon Jenkins resigned last Friday after reports that Sterling was to receive a lifetime achievement award from the NAACP. This would make two NAACP awards for Sterling. The first, for promoting civil rights, was given in 2009, the year Sterling agreed to pay a $2.7 million settlement after the US Justice Department sued him for allegedly refusing to rent apartments he owned to African Americans and Hispanics.

“In order to separate the Los Angeles NAACP and the NAACP from the negative exposure I have caused,” Jenkins said, “I respectfully resign my position.” Appropriate action, but again, it may not stop more negative fallout.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the NAACP.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Internal review of public decisions is a must. Lifetime achievement and other awards, especially those given to public figures, will be featured in the media. As such, they should be carefully reviewed by the organization that will be represented by these figures. Jenkins is at fault for giving Sterling, a known racist, these awards, but did he act independently? Surely higher-ups must have known. They’re now likely shaking in their corner offices.

 

NBA’s Silver Is a PR Game Changer

 NBAs Silver Is a PR Game Changer

THE PR VERDICT: A (PR PERFECT) for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

Just three months into his tenure as commissioner of the National Basketball Association, Adam Silver was confronted with a situation that could make or break his career: how to handle leaked audio recordings of Don Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, making racist statements.

Silver’s response was pure PR gold. On Tuesday, he shocked the sports world by imposing the maximum fine on Sterling ($2.5 million) and banning him for life from the NBA. Sterling cannot attend any NBA basketball game or appear at any Clippers facility, nor can he participate any business decision regarding the team.

At the press conference, Silver’s voice shook with emotion. “The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful. That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage,” he fumed at the microphone. He also said he “wiill do everything in my power” to force Sterling to sell his interest in the team.

The punishment was swift and harsh–and universally lauded. “The conversation transcended sports,” wrote USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan [no relation to the author of this blog]. ESPN’s J.A. Adande opined, “He took bold strides down his own path, showed an unwillingness to allow the sore of Sterling to fester. It’s a new era.”

The magnitude of Silver’s decision, quick action, and unvarnished disgust conspire to make this one of the most significant moments in basketball history.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR PERFECT) for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who has cemented his legacy just three months into the job.

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  A good decision goes a long way. Silver’s unprecedented actions are important not just for managing the current situation, but for what they suggest about the new commissioner: this is a strong individual with a low tolerance for bad behavior, someone who will bring stability to the league. The press conference left no doubt: Adam Silver is a game changer.