By Katrina Harpell

Continuing the discussion on brands in crisis mode, let’s look at another industry steeped in tradition, pride, Americana, money, and on a much less positive note – aggression, anger and violence.

If you Google “NFL Domestic Violence”, the top articles you will see have titles like “After Unsteady Steps to Punish Domestic Violence, NFL Faces Further Scrutiny”, “NFL Shows it Doesn’t Really Care About Domestic Violence”, “Josh Brown: Another NFL Failure on Domestic Violence”, and “The NFL’s Uneven History of Punishing Domestic Violence”.

Since 2000, there have been 835 arrests of active NFL players.  Of those, 83 arrests were made for domestic violence – that is just arrests.  (Click HERE for the full list). Within the past 2 years, major scandals involving Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Montee Ball, Johnny Manziel and most recently Josh Brown have blown up in the public eye, making many ask questions like “What is the NFL doing to combat this issue?”, and also “Why is the NFL trying to sweep these issues under the rug?”

Ray Rice was first suspended for 2 games in 2014 after knocking his fiancée (now wife) unconscious at a New Jersey casino.  The incident occurred in February, Rice was suspended for 2 games in July and then the video was leaked in September showing the extent of the altercation, at which time Rice was released by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

Looking through the NFL arrest chart, the 23 arrest charges (to date) in 2016 range from DUI to gun charges, to drug charges to battery/assault.  While many of these cases remain unresolved, the NFL has (at least to the public eye) gotten tougher on guns, drugs and violence.  For example, 7 of these 23 cases resulted in a player’s quick dismissal from the team, either within the day or week of the incident.

NFL.com published information on the new policies addressing social issues back in December 2014.  They do have systems in place, like ongoing education on assault/abuse, individual support; they have updated the individual personal conduct policy and have pledged support of leading domestic violence and Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Groups. They also pledge/have also pledged to support programs that develop the character of young people.

According to the new Individual Conduct Policy, A baseline suspension of six games without pay for violations involving assault, battery, domestic violence, dating violence, child abuse, other forms of family violence, or sexual assault, with consideration given to possible mitigating or aggravating circumstances.” 

This certainly sounds like progress.  Right?  Yet, when Josh Brown was arrested in 2015 for domestic violence against his (now ex) wife, he was suspended for only 1 game.  When more details about his personal history came out, he was released by the NY Giants in October 2016.

So what can we learn from the missteps of NFL management?  Enforce your policies.  Don’t be wishy-washy, or try to hide or misrepresent the seriousness of any issues happening behind closed doors.  In today’s intense social media driven world, everyone’s watching you, and will hold you accountable.