In 2014 the NFL was plagued with terrible PR management and terrible punishment policies during the season, all dealing with their stance on domestic violence. It seems like one day after the other there was a case about a player being apart in domestic violence, each case as the defendant and not the victim. In January of the new year of 2015, the NFL’s luck didn’t get any better. Hours after the 2015 AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, reports that 11 of the 12 New England patriots balls that were used were deflated. This came to life which started what seemed to be a PR nightmare for the NFL.

After reading about the conflict management life cycle in chapter 8, it has become very clear to myself that the NFL did a poor job at handling deflategate from start to finish, which in my opinion should lead to the resignation of Commissioner Rodger Goodell

The first step in crisis management is the proactive stage which consist of environmental scanning, issues tracking, issues management, and crisis plan. Right off the bat the NFL according to the life cycle module, failed. Feburary 19th at the NFL combine Ryan Grigson the GM of the colts admitted that he reached out to the NFL prior to the AFC championship game about the possibility of the balls being deflated after suspensions he had when they first played the Patriots in November (ESPN). In my opinion what should have happened was some type of future crisis prevention plan should have been taken. The NFL was told prior to the games of a deflating balls and chose to do nothing. What I think they should have done was at least check to see if there was any truth to this allegation. At the very least be proactive and keep an eye on the balls that teams were going to use for the title game. That way if balls were deflated after the game, and the NFL checked before the game and they were regulation, now the NFL is able to prove that the Patriots in fact were deflating balls and the appropriate actions should be taken from there.

The second stage in the life cycle is the strategic phase. This phase consists of essentially preparing yourself for the crisis and taking the steps needed to handle it before it gets bigger. The NFL however, actually did a good job. While the deflategate case was still in its infancy stage the NFL hired an attorney named Theodore V. Wells Jr. to investigate they prepared themselves for what would eventually be a big time crisis.

In the third stage of the the life cycle is the reaction phase and that’s where the NFL messed up big time. The reaction phase calls for crises communication which includes a crisis plan, as well as meeting the needs for the public 24/7. Rodger Goodell actually tried to do so. After investigation and four months after the report came out Goodell suspended brady for 4 games and fined the patriots $1,000,000. The suspension served as what the book would call conflict resolution. This was the NFL’s way of meeting the public need. However, this backfired on the NFL because their investigation was made public. It came out that they didn’t find any facts of Tom Brady wrong doings only “probabilities” of wrong doing (Jenkins). Which again proved bad PR management because it showed that the Goodell was only handing down punishments because its what the “people” wanted, when it was really to save their own butts by their failed attempted at ending it all.

Lastly, the last step is the recovery phase which calls for reputation management and image restoration. The NFL failed to do either of them as it is proved as the judge who handled Tom Bradys appeal of the suspension wrote in his decision that Goodell went too far with his punishment and overturned the NFL’s punishment making the NFL look weak.

In my opinion, after reading and researching deflategate it has showed me the inability of the NFL to handle PR crisis’s.


ESPN (2015, September). Timeline of events for DeflateGate, Tom Brady. Retrieved From ESPN website http://espn.go.com/blog/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4782561/timeline-of-events-for-deflategate-tom-brady

Jenkins, S. (2015). The Washington Post. Deflategate exposed Rodger Goodell as unfit to serve is office. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/redskins/deflategate-exposed-roger-goodell-as-unfit-to-serve-his-office/2015/09/03/6b1a0688-5267-11e5-8c19-0b6825aa4a3a_story.html

Nocera, J. (2016). The New York Times. True Scandals of Deflategate lies in the N.F.L.’s Behavior. Retrieved From http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/23/sports/football/nfl-ignores-ball-deflation-science-at-new-england-patriots-expense.html?_r=0


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