Public relations is so important that companies worldwide spend billions to enhance their global images. They aim to create and sustain a favorable, responsible image of their industries, organizations and employees.
Even the best professionals can only do so much when a public relations catastrophe hits. How should an affected organization, and its industry at large, handle the trauma? Who should take the blame and how far should any punitive response go? 
The US is confronting that issue relating to its favorite sport…football. I love football and support my hometown team, the Philadelphia Eagles. No, I don’t mean the game that my English colleagues have argued over for years, where players in shorts and polo shirts run up and down the field kicking the ball. I mean the American version, where big guys in padded uniforms and helmets crush each other to get that oval brown bowl to the end zone.  
The National Football League (NFL) was founded as the American Professional Football Association with 14 teams in 1920. Almost 100 years later since its 1922 name change, the present 32-team NFL boasts almost 1,700 players and generated close to $10 billion last year. Most sports stadiums reflect corporate sponsorships, with names representing well-known insurance, communications, banking or delivery companies.
The NFL has faced public relations problems for years due to many players’ unlawful conduct. It now faces a particularly huge public backlash, thanks to some team players’ high-profile criminal acts and the NFL‘s perceived weak reactions.
Last spring, elevator surveillance video surfaced showing Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator and onto the floor in the now-closed Revel Casino in Atlantic City. She married him the next day. He received a two-game suspension and timid condemnation from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Ravens officials. 
A second video, inside the elevator, proved Rice punched his fiancée and knocked her out. The Ravens released him and Goodell publicly apologized. Since then, three other teams have also deactivated high profile players for domestic and child abuse. Goodell is in the hot seat, but sadly, players under arrest during and post-season is nothing new. 
Big name sponsors have cut these players’ product endorsements. Some of America’s biggest corporate names are considering potential economic sanctions on NFL advertising. The media is polling whether these infractions will repel women, now a huge football audience. The NFL has spent years marketing to women, via merchandise, charitable causes and education. 
In light of these circumstances, it amazes me that the highly-regulated gaming industry, whose key employees must undergo close background investigations for licensing, must still defend its integrity. Infringements face penalties, fines or exclusion. Each newly-legalized jurisdiction finds industry insiders and executives presenting the same economic and social studies promoting gaming‘s community benefits. 
For example, Massachusetts passed casino legislation in 2011, but now voters face the Affordable Casino Repeal Initiative, Question 3 on the November ballot. A “yes” vote repeals the law. The same tired old casino opponents are pushing the same tired old reasons. 
National Public Radio (NPR) recently interviewed American Gaming Association (AGA) President Geoff Freeman. He stressed that the typical casino customer – now younger – reflects the whole of American society who views casinos as entertainment, dining, shopping and gambling destinations. 
Geoff smartly handled the interviewer’s predictable attempt at tripping him up. When Geoff mentioned that customers set a budget for themselves, the questioner immediately tried to define it as their budget for losing money. No, asserted Geoff. It is a budget for how a customer chooses to be entertained, just like going to a movie or a baseball game. 
Bravo, Geoff, because the best defense is a good offense. He quoted key factual information to make the case. The AGA’s most recent “State of the States” survey reveals a growing acceptance and favorability for gaming among all American age groups, with 90% approving gaming for anyone and 57% for themselves.
Will we ever see a stadium named for a gaming sponsor? I doubt it anytime soon, and yet we work in an industry that tolerates nothing illegal. 
Isn’t it ironic? Gaming regulates, polices and monitors itself, but has to constantly promote its positives while the NFL and other industries do damage control when crisis hits. The most recent poll after these team disasters hit showed almost 90% of the fans for all teams will not change their viewing habits.
Let’s hope that gaming generates that same kind of loyalty to also keep its customers.

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