As you may very well be aware, the NFL has been embroiled in a series of scandals related to their players and the unfortunate propensity of a very select few to beat women or children. The league has been criticized by many for their inaction, and potential cover-up, as a result of these scandals. Much of that criticism has been directed at Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner. I’d like to approach this story from the social media angle, because as I recently learned, one of Goodell’s many screw-ups in relation to this disaster has been on Twitter. Indeed, ‘d previously written about the scandal and Twitter, noting that the Baltimore Ravens deleted an older, victim-blaming tweet, with no explanation, related to the incident between Ray Rice attacking his then fiancee.
Goodell is on Twitter and had an active Twitter account. I say had because he hasn’t tweeted since September 5, over a month ago. This was his last tweet:
Three days after this tweet was sent the infamous video was released by TMZ. That video showed Rice striking his finance and knocking her unconscious. From there, it somehow got worse. Rice was released by the Ravens and suspended by the NFL, but allegations emerged that the NFL had, in fact, seen the video tape which showed Rice striking his fiance. Goodell, who had already been roundly criticized for suspending a woman beater longer than a marijuana smoker, reacted by lengthening penalties for domestic abusers, but the damage was done.
One of the items that Goodell has been criticized on was his lack of communication. The NFL was giving less than clear answers on a variety of fronts, like when they first saw the video tape. The slew of criticisms resulted in many calling for Goodell’s resignation.
I think that Goodell compounded the problem by not being clear with who knew what, and when they knew it. The public still remains angry at Goodell – just look at the latest tweets sent in his direction:
By not participating on Twitter, Goodell lost a vital opportunity to participate in this story, and shape the conversation around it. The league claims to be open to transparency, and by Goodell not tweeting, its pretty clear that he doesn’t want to answer questions and that he has something to hide.
You don’t always have to live tweet a crisis. I get that. Sometimes, you need time to figure out a message and a communications strategy – the last thing you want to do with social media is go off half-cocked and have to walk back any message.
However, at some point, sooner rather than later, you have to reengage. Personally, if I were Goodell and the NFL, I would get on Twitter and hold a Twitter Town Hall – yes, I am going back on my own advice – for the explicit purpose of giving people the chance to yell at me. I would say, “I’m Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner, and the buck stops here. I understand the public is furious with me, and they have every right to be. I’m going to sit here and answer as many of your questions as I can. I know the comments will be overwhelmingly negative, and I understand that. I want to be constructive and try to address the concerns about me and the NFL – fire away #NFLTownHall.” The tweets would be beyond negative. But it would give Goodell the chance to be transparent, answer questions and start to rehabilitate his image, because let’s be honest, it really can’t get much worse.
The only reason you don’t engage is if you have something you still want to hide, or you think the scandal is going to get worse and don’t want to have to go dark again. And if that’s really the case, Goodell should really resign. Now. Or, more appropriately, he should have done so a month ago.