Abiding by a code of ethics is not always an easy task. It can be especially difficult for public relations professionals in the sports industry. Sports fans demand constant and accurate information about their favorite teams and players. Public relations professionals in this industry must release information quickly to satisfy their fans in order to keep their support, interest, and money. The fast-paced nature of the sports public relations industry opens up many opportunities for ethical issues.
Timing is a major factor in the release of any information in the sport industry. Immediately releasing or withholding information can be a strategic move on the public relations professionals part that can affect sponsorships, suspensions, wins, losses, and other deals.
In February 2014, the sports public relation industry had a major ethical dilemma on their hands. The Baltimore Ravens public relations team failed to act ethically in their dissemination of information about former player Ray Rice’s domestic violence scandal. The Ravens released tweets that sided with the abuser, Rice. Additionally, they neglected to release information about the issue, and instead disseminated information about how outstanding Rice’s character is. The Ravens attempted to protect the reputation of their team even when there was substantial evidence, in this case video footage, of Rice’s wrongdoing. Ultimately, this public relations ethical crisis caused extensive damage to Rice, the Ravens and the NFL. Check out the full timeline of the Ravens public responses to the scandal here.
The situation’s magnitude may have caused some professionals to forget about the PRSA Code of Ethics and their own personal credo. If I were presented with the Ray Rice scandal, I believe that my personal credo would have assisted me in acting ethically and avoiding the mistakes made by all the parties involved.
My personal credo is as follows:
“The truth will never go out of style. Learn, live, and create with the betterment of society in mind. Stay humble, work hard and speak honestly.”
The truth will never go out of style
I would have never used superficial tweets to cover up the truth of the matter. I would have released all the information in its truest form to ensure that the public could understand the severity of the actions and how we, the Ravens, were dealing with the situation.
The betterment of society
My credo explains that our words and actions have a profound effect on society. Therefore, guided by my credo, I would have released the video of the assault before TMZ had a chance to. Society deserves to know the truth, so we can learn from our mistakes and prevent them from being repeated.
Stay humble, work hard and speak honestly
Put in this situation, I would have worked hard to create good press around the Ravens without suppressing the negative information about the scandal. I would make efforts to donate to domestic violence charities and utilize other players as spokesmen for the NFL’s policy against domestic violence. These actions can support better outcomes than what actually happened.
When it comes down to the heart of the matter, telling the truth is the ethically and morally right thing to do. As public relations professionals, we need to uphold and protect the code of ethics, as well as, hold ourselves and others accountable for unethical actions. In most cases, honesty really is the best policy.