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Is the NFL’s PR Team Blacking Out a Major Issue?
By: Mike Bush
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The NFL has always been about tough guys and outlaws. The Green Bay Packers' trainer once said of (linebacker) Ray Nitschke, “The most amazing thing about Nitschke is the he played his entire career on one leg. His left leg had been injured so much in high school and college that the muscles had atrophied and never fully regenerated. His left leg was 50 percent smaller than his right.” (Look here for more quotes.)

Surely, there are a few “That’s when the game was played by tough guys” comments available.

But while the NFL used to be about tough guys doing tough guy things, lately it’s been more about criminals doing criminal things (and alleged criminals allegedly doing criminal things).

While baseball players were dragged in front of Congress to discuss whether or not they used steroids or HGH, football has had no such misery. In fact, a two-time NFL Champion admitted to using HGH, and the largest outrage came not from the media or the fans, but from a player whose biggest claim to fame might be his endzone celebrations.

Today, we learned that a running back for the Seattle Seahawks, Marshawn Lynch, was arrested on suspicion of DUI. The link says this is the second time that the player has been in trouble. The first time, he admitted to driving away after running over a woman with his car.

If it was limited to Lynch, or a small group of players, it would be one thing. If this was a totally new phenomenon, again, it would be something worth discussing as a new thing. But neither is true. A 2009 Yahoo story points out that there were at least 73 players arrested for DUI in 2008. Again, almost 5% of professional football players were arrested for drunk driving in 2008.

In the past few years, the problem has grown from drunk driving to more violent crimes. In 2011, some of the crimes that warranted arrests were: Resisting Arrest with Violence, Theft, Assault and Battery, Assault Causing Bodily Injury, Drug Possession, and Assault and Firearms.

While each city’s beat reporter does tend to publish these crimes as a sort of small daily brief, the NFL has largely gone unscathed by a series of growing crimes. Even the 2009 Yahoo story, which chronicled a series of criminal activities, really had little impact.

The NFL’s PR machine has effectively quelled many of these stories, isolating them as individual events, creating a one-story-and-done effect and minimizing the negative impact these stories have. Perhaps they’ve been too effective.  

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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