When PR Gets Personal: Ethics in Sports


Today, sports ethics are more than just what happens on the field.  Source: davepear.com

Each field of public relations faces its own ethical challenges. Because of its incessant growth in relevancy and reach, the sport industry and its unique obstacles merit consideration in the PR ethics discussion.

Changes in the field

The sports industry presents layers of identities for the public’s consumption, from specific sport communities to individual players.  As a public relations representative in this field, one must understand and manage not only the organization as a whole, but each team member as well.  With personal branding such a prevalent concept today, the individual is more visible than ever.  Independence, however, poses a threat to public relations control.


Personal foul

Balancing the management of the reputation of a player, the reputation of an organization, and the information that the public knows can pose an ethical dilemma.

When an individual acts with disregard to the organization’s values, the PR professional must work to maintain a positive standing between the coach or player and the fans, while remaining transparent and truthful throughout the process.

“Although some incidents were isolated acts, they will have a lasting effect on the reputation and integrity of the sport that took a lifetime to achieve,” said Brandi Boatner, as vice president of advocacy for the PRSSA. With each ethical situation carrying years of tradition and prestige, it is imperative to handle them with poise and honesty.


Education in ethics

The management of the Ray Rice scandal is an example of an ethical breach. When the first wave of information about the domestic abuse case was released, industry executives, such as Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and team owner Steve Bisciotti, commented on


Janay Rice (left), Rice’s wife, and Ray Rice (right) address the domestic abuse incident.  Source: si.com

Rice’s positive moral standing, while NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was curt about the issue. Though reputation management and cautious commenting are acceptable practices, ignoring the issue is not.

As a PR professional, one must consult all high-profile employees of an organization on how to address crisis situations properly. All authorities who released statements about Rice’s case should have addressed the unacceptable abuse. No one condemned Rice’s illegal behavior. The initial lack of taking responsibility created a defensive atmosphere for the rest of the case. Though no one can control another’s words or actions, as a PR representative, I would have felt it my duty to identify the illegality and intolerability of this case, consistent with my personal values and ethics.


Personal Credo

Stand up for what’s right and lay down he law,

that bigotry is intolerable and respect is for all.

To tell the whole truth, challenge each case,

and deliver the facts, whatever it takes.

Assume responsibility to nurture trust,

with unwavering commitment to means that are just.

I will uphold these convictions, maintain them through and through,

to improve my practice and everything I do.

-Alyssa Haduck


One thought on “When PR Gets Personal: Ethics in Sports

  1. Took me a long time to read this. Had computer problems and then got backed up on e-mails. Well done piece and I agree. Many of these athletes think they can do no wrong. I trust you are home and probably working. See you soon.


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