Sometimes, trying to do the right thing can cause a PR challenge. Just ask standout Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. In an effort to be a good community leader and help out victims of the coronavirus, Lawrence initially ran afoul of NCAA regulations when his COVID-19 Family Relief and Support fund came under scrutiny from league officials.
Trevor Lawrence and Girlfriend Fundraiser
Lawrence and his girlfriend, Marissa Mowry, set up a GoFundMe page intended to directly assist families that had been hurt by the impact of the coronavirus on communities in South Carolina. Almost immediately, the page received serious attention. Then, in an abundance of caution, officials at Clemson University shut the site down, in the mistaken belief that Lawrence and Mowry were violating NCAA rules and regulations.
This left Lawrence and Mowry offering apologies to anyone interested in supporting their charitable efforts. Mowry posted a video offering this: “Our intentions were to try and help everyone… That’s changed a bit, but we’re still going to do our best to love on y’all and support one another during this time…”
But, as it turned out, Clemson officials might have jumped the gun. Soon after the site was taken down, NCAA officials overruled Clemson, saying the site violated no Association Regulations. In a statement, NCAA officials congratulated Lawrence and Mowry for their work, saying, “We applaud Trevor for his efforts…”
Clemson University Steps In
Clemson’s athletics department replied with appreciation of their own, “We appreciate their swift action in permitting this…” adding that Clemson’s initial decision had been made while considering the NCAA’s regulations against athletes using their names, images, and likenesses for crowdfunding… though they made the decision prior to the NCAA contacting the school.
Clearly, this was a situation in which no organization wanted to be the one looking like it was stopping people from helping those in need during a global pandemic. Some have said Clemson overreacted, while others in sports media have argued that Clemson was right to take the proactive action they did to protect one of their student-athletes. The NCAA, they argue, is notoriously inscrutable in some of its decisions related to student-athlete behavioral guidelines, especially where branding and cash are concerned.
Future Fundraising Efforts
In the end, the incident offers a lesson for everyone involved. When a person or entity represents a brand which also represents a significant brand value for another entity, it can be smart PR to touch base and make sure any public messaging is done in a way that doesn’t violate any related agreements or transgress any established lines.