Combating Public Relations On and Off the Field

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Over the past few weeks, the Miami Dolphins have found their way into some hot water. On Sept. 25, starting quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, suffered a head and back injury during the bout against the Buffalo Bills. After a medical examination during half-time, Tagovailoa was cleared and finished the game strong with a 21-19 result. The Dolphins returned on Thursday, Sept. 28, to play against the Cincinnati Bengals. However, Tagovailoa was faced with fate at the end of the second quarter when he was sacked by a Bills linebacker. Millions of viewers across the nation sat jaw-dropped as they watched Tagovailoa hit the ground as his limbs spasmed into what seemed to be a “fencing position.” Immediately, he was taken off of the field by stretcher and admitted to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Tagovailoa was diagnosed with a concussion with no structural damage and was able to move all extremities, allowing him to travel back to Florida that evening with the team.

After the frightening scene, fans began to question whether Tagovailoa’s initial medical examination during the Bills game was valid. Later in the week, it was revealed that the unaffiliated neurotrauma examiner made several mistakes in their evaluation of Tua during the Bills game and was immediately fired. While Tagovailoa recovers from his injuries, the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association) is investigating the matter. The NFL and the NFLPA have agreed to adjust the rules of the concussion protocol. Though actions are being taken to combat the backlash from this event, the Miami Dolphins organization is still being criticized. How can the Dolphins protect their reputation from this unfortunate situation?

From a Public Relations lens, the Dolphins have some work to do on their awareness of the sensitivity toward this issue. While coming across this story, my mind was drawn to the more recent discovery of Chronic Traumatic Encephalothopy (CTE), a form of severe head trauma that heavily affects impulse control and judgment. The injury became a hot topic regarding professional footballers who have made questionable decisions outside of their careers. For example, Aaron Hernandez, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, suffered the most severe form of CTE found in people of his age group. However, his injury was not discovered until he was convicted in several cases of murder and battery. In light of Hernandez’s story, the Miami Dolphins PR team should directly address their awareness of the effects of head trauma to show their support toward players and fans this may affect.

A smart PR move would be to write a statement explaining and apologizing for their faults and proposing how the Dolphins will avoid the issue from occurring again. This method is direct and can be used through various channels to ensure it reaches the target audience. By referencing their knowledge of a previous situation like Hernandez’s, it demonstrates to the audience that they are aware of the severity of the issue. Another PR move to remedy this situation can be to follow up on the situation once the Dolphins have taken their next steps. For example, once a new neurotrauma examiner is assigned to the team, the PR team can write a press release to explain the credibility of the new examiner and what new protocols will be incorporated into the head trauma examination process. Though the Miami Dolphins did not necessarily find themselves in a PR crisis, it is essential to understand how to address issues on any scale.

Mia Senick, Account Associate

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