NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Bans LA Clippers Owner Donald Sterling

It’s been quite a week for the Los Angeles Clippers. Over the weekend, TMZ and Deadspin released voice recordings of a phone conversation between Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, in which Sterling told her not to bring black people, including Magic Johnson, to his games. Sterling made it very clear that he didn’t want his girlfriend posting pictures of herself with black people on “the Instagram” (lolz) or being seen with them in public. Now, the NBA has made it equally clear that it doesn’t want to associate with Sterling — in public or private.

After a three-day investigation, in which forensic analysts verified the legitimacy of the recording, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced Tuesday that the NBA would ban Donald Silver, strongly encourage him to sell the team and fine him a whopping $2.5 million.

“We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling’s views,” Silver said. “They simply have no place in the NBA.” You can watch the entire statement below.

Clearly, Sterling’s comments constitute a HUGE public relations fail, but fortunately, the NBA’s handling of the situation has largely been a win for the league as a whole. According to Social Radar, online conversation about the LA Clippers has become 34 percent less positive over the past 10 days, with Donald Sterling (not surprisingly) leading the list of search terms and topics associated with the team. These numbers prove the obvious point that the public’s problem with the Clippers is not the team, but the owner. By banning him, the NBA effectively saved the reputation of the league (and took a stand against racism, of course).

In short, the PR lesson from the NBA’s crisis is simple: If people hate one person in your organization (with good reason), you have to eliminate that person. It sounds cutthroat, but an organization simply cannot be saved if the public has a clear and valid reason to hate one of its most visible representatives. That individual immediately becomes a threat t the survival of the organization, and the threat must be removed as soon as possible.

Think of it this way. Following the release of the recording, the public didn’t have a problem with the NBA, or the Clippers for that matter. The public’s problem has always been with Donald Sterling. Had the NBA stood behind Sterling or simply scolded him without actually taking action (which I’d never expect from the NBA for clear moral reasons, but hypothetically speaking), the public would then definitely have a problem with the NBA, too. Therefore, the NBA made the only right move from a public relations standpoint.

So remember, if you’re organization’s crisis is centralized around one individual, and that individual truly has done something wrong, the best (read: only) option is to remove that individual.

Missed last week’s PR win? Check it out here!

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2 thoughts on “PR Win of the Week: NBA

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