The Associated Press reported on July 19 that 75 former NFL players were suing the league for concealing information about the danger of concussions. For decades, the plaintiffs allege in the suit, the National Football League buried research that only in recent years has come to light.
With so much attention fixed now on how the Wall Street Journal and Fox News are covering parent company News Corp.'s hacking scandal, we thought it would be worth a visit to NFL.com site to see if there's any mention of the lawsuit.
Sure enough, the AP report was right there on the home page as of the evening of July 20. It was the last of seven headlines in the "Latest News" section.
And at the bottom of the AP story that's running on NFL.com are—you guessed it—comments. A lot of comments.
Not all of these comments are unemotional and based in sound, legal reasoning. Some comments, in fact, were deemed abusive and were deleted. On the whole it's a free-flowing, spiky conversation.
Did the NFL really have a choice in running the AP story on its own site? Logically, no—but large organizations are not always logical, or brave. If the league had not posted the story, that in itself would have become a media story.
The crisis management tip here is this: Enabling the free flow of information about a crisis that affects one's own organization can actually serve to limit reputational damage. At the very least, it represents a nod toward accountability.