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#PR: NBA Commissioner Response Perfect Example of Crisis Communications
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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By now, there is hardly anyone who has not heard in almost all forms of media about the LA Clippers scandal arising from team owner Donald Sterling's racist rant. Also, hardly a day goes by without further discussion of the actions taken this past Monday by new NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who announced that Sterling would be banned “for life” from any contact whatsoever with the team he currently owns and must also pay a maximum fine of $2.5 million.

This announcement immediately set off a media speculation frenzy on whether Sterling would sell the team voluntarily or whether the other owners of the various teams in the NBA would vote (a ¾ majority is needed to strip Sterling of the team) to force a sale of the team. Also almost immediately, speculation began on who might be interested in purchasing the Clippers franchise.

I watched the news conference this past Monday when NBA commissioner Silver laid out the steps taken to investigate Sterling's remarks, his consultation with players and former players of the Clippers, his praise of Clippers current head coach for denouncing Sterling's racist rants, and apologizing, on the behalf of the entire NBA, for Sterling's deeply offensive behavior. And then, as well all know, the axe fell on Mr Sterling.

The promptness of the NBA response was, to me, a very good example of how to handle crisis communications. Unlike the disastrous BP response to the Gulf Oil rig explosion and massive leakage from one of its wells, the NBA's action was timely, pro-active, and swift. Crisis communications demands almost minute-by-minute action to be truly effective.

NBA Commissioner Silver's first test as a commissioner was the Clippers scandal. I am sure it will not be the last crisis he will have to handle during his tenure. However, his action on Monday most definitely helped restore the league's credibility. In all truth, he could do nothing less.


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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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