When Tragedy Strikes in Sports - Making the Rigth Call with Your PR Plan
By: Natalie Mikolich
Waking up to the news that the star pitcher on your baseball team and one of the best on the field in Major League Baseball (MLB) died from a horrific boat crash in the middle of the night was something no one expected on the morning of Sunday, September 25th, 2016. Rocking the airways and news channels from all of the local media outlets in Miami to ESPN Sports Center and every outlet in between, stories spread like wildfire on September 25th about the tragic death of the Miami Marlins’ 24-year-old pitcher Jose Fernandez with an outpouring of messages and mourning on twitter from fellow MLB players, sports reporters, the MLB and MLBPA (Major League Baseball Players Association), fans and even those who never ever knew Fernandez (including myself).
In sports, on the playing field, and in sports PR, we aim to always be prepared for anything that comes our way and to “expect the unexpected,” but can we really ever expect to lose a young athlete with one of the brightest careers and futures ahead of him like we did with Fernandez?
Specifically in sports PR, we often discuss being ready and prepared as best as possible for crisis situations to occur at any given moment, but how are we ever supposed to plan and be prepared for the loss of a marquee athlete in the middle of the season like with the passing of Fernandez.
In addition to the Fernandez family dealing with the most difficult days they will ever face, so did the entire Miami Marlins organization on September 25th when they held a press conference with all of their team in attendance within hours of learning about the devastating death of their star pitcher.
For those of us immersed in our sports PR practices, here is what we learned from the Miami Marlins, and how they handled the situation that no one – whether a family member, friend, league, team or PR practitioner – should ever have to plan for: