(source: USA Today)
Not long after the Donald Sterling scandal, the sports industry is experiencing yet another scandal rooted in racism. It was announced yesterday that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will cancel the Washington Redskins trademark, among a recent flurry of controversy over the name. The office made the ruling arguing that the team name “disparages” Native Americans and is considered offensive.
Though controversy with the Redskins’ name began in 1992, the issue has been garnering more negative media attention over the last few years. With the recent ruling by the Patent Office, the tension is likely to grow. It raises several issues for the organization, namely the potential need to rebrand an 82 history. In addition, they will likely need to rebuild their reputation, with the team potentially losing value in this scandal. There are a few steps the Redskins organization should take in order to ease their current public relations crisis.
- Identify a spokesperson. They should designate a spokesperson to be the face of the team during the crisis, whether it is the owner, coach, or other. This allows for more consistent messaging coming from the organization.
- Identify stakeholders. Who, both internally and externally, matter to the team and how are the decisions of the organization going to affect these stakeholders.
- Use social media. The team should utilize their social media to update stakeholders, fans, and the public. This is the first place they are going to check to find out what is happening and what actions are being taken. The team is, in fact, doing just that. Wednesday morning, the official account tweeted a press release regarding the Patent Office’s decision.
- Be transparent. If the team establishes open communication with the media and fans, it will ease any backlash. This will also help repair their relationship with the public as well.
In order to avoid similar controversy, other sports teams, like NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and MLB’s Cleveland Indians, have begun phasing out their Native American mascots while still retaining related symbols.