SBD/3/Sports Society

ESPN'S "OUTSIDE THE LINES" EXAMINES ATHLETES IN TROUBLE

          ESPN examined athletes in trouble with the law on
     "Outside the Lines: Sports Under Arrest."  In his
     introduction, ESPN's Bob Ley said, "You can point to all the
     money, all the media or simply society, but there has never
     been such a time when so much of the sports news is made
     right here in a court of law" (ESPN, 9/2).  
          DAMAGE CONTROL: In a segment on managing a sports
     crisis, Ley examined how teams, leagues, agents and
     corporate sponsors plan for and respond to players getting
     arrested.  After 76er Allen Iverson's recent arrest on
     weapons and marijuana charges, his sponsor Reebok's response
     "was quick and positive."  Reebok Dir of PR Dave Fogelson:
     "Our first reaction is certainly going to be that we're
     going to support the athlete.  And this is not a knee-jerk
     reaction. ... In the short term if there's some negativity,
     that's for the short term."  Ley, who interviewed execs at
     Advantage Int'l, noted that "crisis management by a player's
     agent is perhaps most critical immediately after an
     incident."  Advantage Int'l Senior VP Tom George: "They're
     looking for us to make things right.  That's part of our job
     is to make those problems go away so that they can
     concentrate on what they do best."  Ley reported that in the
     wake of Warren Moon's arrest two years ago for domestic
     violence -- he was later acquitted -- Moon and his agents
     "took the PR offensive" by holding two press conferences. 
     At the same time, his marketing agent, ISI Exec VP Steve
     Rosner, "worked to save" Moon's deals with companies such as
     Northwest Airlines and Nike (ESPN, 9/2).  
          THE LEAGUE WITH THE PLAN: Ley: "Perhaps no league is
     more organized than the National Football League in dealing
     with the media during a crisis.  'Outside the Lines'
     obtained a copy of the NFL's internal 10-point PR crisis
     plan, a check list, used since 1993, for addressing volatile
     situations."  Excerpts from the crisis plan listed by ESPN:
     1) "First response should be 'no comment,'" 3) "Convene
     immediate meeting of crisis team," 5) "Formulate statement
     that can be issued to the media," and 8) "Develop talking
     points, send to allies who will be speaking to media."  Ley:
     "The National Football League says it uses that PR crisis
     plan as a common sense guide.  None of the other three major
     sports has such a written plan" (ESPN, 9/2).

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