Concussions Continue to Plague the NFL and It’s PR Problem

2015-12-07 by Ronn Torossian

NFL PR Concussion


Football is dangerous. Brutal even. There’s no way you can base a game around massive people continually colliding and avoid consideration of injury. In recent years, brain injury has been a big issue … and an ongoing PR battle the NFL continues to lose.

At this point, despite any actions taken to make the game safer, the general public tends to believe the NFL doesn’t really care much about whether or not its players suffer lingering problems after they hang up their helmets and pads. Sure, the powers that be are singing a concerned song, but, to date, the public just isn’t buying it. Sure, they will keep watching, but they have no love for the NFL owners and top brass.

The most recent step taken by the NFL is an increased effort to spot and treat concussions. A medical spotter watching the game can call a halt to the action if he believes an injury has been missed by on-field staff.

A good first step … but still not enough to win the PR battle. Fans are frustrated, both by the delays and more importantly, by the appearance of inconsistent applications of new guidelines.

The most recent example? A concussion sustained by Rams QB Case Keenum. It was a key time in the game: St. Louis and opponent, Baltimore, were tied at 13 with about a minute remaining in regulation. Keenum was leading the Rams down the field when he was dropped by a vicious hit from a Baltimore defender.

Keenum slammed to the ground, and his helmet did the telltale whiplash smack on the turf. The QB then grabbed his helmet with both hands. He tried to stand but fell. Woozy and unsteady, Keenum was helped to his feet by a teammate. Rams trainers ran onto the field to give the QB a quick concussion check. Keenum was cleared.

Two plays later, Keenum was sacked. Baltimore recovered and kicked the winning field goal.

It wasn’t until AFTER the game that the Rams checked Keenum for a concussion. Of course, he tested positive. The media and fans went nuts, outraged that he was allowed to play when in obvious risk.

Number one on the complaint list: See, the NFL doesn’t care about its players. They only want the money.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy was quick to issue a statement that the league has begun a review to determine why Keenum was “not removed from the game for the necessary evaluation by a team physician or unaffiliated neuro-trauma consultant…”

Of course, anyone with an undamaged brain understands exactly why. Tie game. Less than a minute remaining. No way the starter gets yanked. Did they ask Keenum? Probably, but he could barely stand, let alone consider the ramifications of staying in the game.

The league countered: “… we will reinforce with all involved the need to ensure that these injuries are properly identified and addressed in a manner consistent with our protocols…”

You’re going to need to do better than that, NFL. We love your product, but when it comes to player safety, no one is buying what you’re selling.

Ronn Torossian: Insights from a Native New Yorker and CEO of 5WPR

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 250 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities