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ESPN'S "OUTSIDE THE LINES" EXAMINES ATHLETES IN TROUBLE
Published September 3, 1997
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).