Top 16 Sports PR Stories of 2016

Top 16 Sports PR Stories of 2016

By Natalie Mikolich & Zach Jones

Sharapova Stuns the Sports World
Shortly before the first serve at this year’s BNP Paribas Open in March, Sharapova took to social media to announce an immediate and unexpected press conference she was holding in Los Angeles. While rumors flew about the possibility of the highest paid female athlete announcing her sudden retirement, the entire tennis and sports world was stunned to learn the press conference was to address her drug test failure for meldonium use less than two months prior to the Australian Open.

In a sincere, authentic, honest and direct statement broadcast live around the world online, Sharapova acknowledged the unintentional, honest mistake she made due to a lack of information received by her management team. Accepting how she not only let her fans down, but the sport as well, Sharapova clearly laid out the facts of the situation and chain of events leading up to what occurred for her failed drug test.

Many famous athletes before her denied the crisis situation they were in, hid behind their spokespersons, or had written statements disseminated to the media masses. However, Sharapova not only took responsibility for her actions by publicly facing everyone in a live press conference, she also got ahead of the message and potentially brand-damaging media stories that were to come by owning the narrative of the story by admitting to her “honest mistake.”

Following this, and throughout her trial with Court of Arbitration for Sport followed by her appeal, Sharapova and her team took to social media to keep fans, reporters and everyone in between updated on developments or to clarify questions and rumors popping up. This resulted in widespread fan support around the world in addition to some of her marquee brand endorsements such as HEAD racquet manufacture stating their unwavering commitment to Sharapova. 

If this crisis situation had been handled differently it could’ve quickly spun out of control and gone south for Sharapova. Instead, her team kept the damage to a minimum for her global brand image and long-term reputation as the highest paid female athlete who serves as a role model for many.
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Superstar Athletes Take to Social Media for Special Announcement
You don’t have to remind sports PR pros about social media’s every growing presence in our daily PR practices, or the ability it gives athletes to have their own platforms to break news and make announcements independent of traditional avenues of sharing news with media reporters and outlets.

And again this year, we saw for the first time superstar professional athletes break news on social media platforms and get creative with their posts and messages.

In the final quarter of #SB50 in February, Seattle Seahawks Running Back Marshawn Lynch made a surprise appearance on Twitter with a photo showing a pair of green cleats hanging from a wire with a peace sign emoji accompanying it in order to announce – or tweet – his official retirement from the NFL.

Later in the year, NFL star Charles Tillman of the Chicago Bears announced his retirement via YouTube with a video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8K_LyWja5o) that used his signature “Peanut Punch” (that initially made him famous) and showed him knocking items out of peoples’ hands followed by him punching the clock and hanging up his cleats. Tillman then shared the video via tweet saying, “It’s been real (emoji peace sign).”

"Pro athletes are coming up with more experience and eyes wide open when it comes to social media and are surrounded by people that understand its power. They get that an announcement can be put out on your terms and in a way that maximizes your brand and Q-rating,"commented Neil Horowitz, Customer Success Manager at Hopscotch and leader in mobile-platform technologies for sports teams and live events.

"The role of the publicist now has to include a social media strategy," added Horowitz. "When the combined reach of your contacts doesn't come close to equaling the Instagram following of your athlete client, well, you need to shift focus appropriately. Every anticipated announcement is a valuable opportunity."

At the very end of 2016, news reports spread like wild fire when 22-time Grand Slam tennis champion Serena Williams announced her engagement to Reddit’s co-founder first with a poem that posted on Reddit before more traditional platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

A+ for effort and creativity this year by all the athletes who utilized social media to make special announcements.
-N

 

When Tragedy Strikes in Sports
With the sudden, and tragic, death of young Miami Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez this fall came a reminder for many sports PR pros that we need to always be prepared to make the right call with our PR plan when tragedy strikes in sports.

What we witnessed from the entire Marlins organization during an exceptionally difficult time, and what many others in sports PR can take note of, was a well-executed communications approach from their community relations, to working with the family and addressing the national media and bombardment of requests they received in the weeks following Fernandez’s death.

Here are a few of the steps the Marlins organization utilized:
Have a plan: similar to crisis PR, having a plan and being as prepared as possible ahead of time are helpful to organizations so they are not starting from the beginning.
Designate a spokesperson:  As with all crisis situations, when those in sports and with teams are faced with tragedy, a part of your plan should include who the designated spokesperson is as well as those who speak with the player’s family and community.
Keep your composure: Often times, we are not only the ones media turn to for questions they want answered, but communication directors are also the point person for those within an organization and keeping calm under the most stressful situations and difficult times is crucial.
Integrate social media in your communication plan: with the evolution of social media into traditional sports PR practices, social media can never be overlooked today and especially in sports. Since social media is where much of the news breaks first these days, we must make sure our messaging is consistent on our social media channels.

According to Crisis PR Expert Kevin Sullivan who was the former White House Communications Director, former SVP of Corporate Communications for NBC Universal, VP of Communications  for NBC Sports and the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, and author of “Breaking Through: Communications Lessons From the Locker Room, the Board Room & the Oval Office,” he stated:

“While few teams ever have to deal with heartbreak of this magnitude, we have seen a number of similar tragedies over the years (such as with the Cardinals and Angels) and you can prepare in advance from the standpoint of – if an active player is killed during the season, what do we do? It may not be possible to have a detailed line-by-line plan, but to give some thought to the basics, so you are not starting from scratch.“
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Chicago Cubs End World Series Curse
After 108 years without a World Series win, the Chicago Cubs ended their notorious “Curse of the Billy Goat” in dramatic fashion in 2016 with a seven-game series win against the Cleveland Indians , clinching in extra innings played amidst rain delays that had everyone on the edge of their seats in the stadium, in the press box and broadcast booth, and watching on tv around the world.

Adidas came out swinging even before the start of the World Series. The global brand put together a unique campaign that rallied fan support and excitement amongst Chicago Cubs fans from signs distributed to fans around the city (including Wrigley Field) reading, #$@& Curses. The adidas signs spread like wildfire and were spotted not only on major street signs in Chicago, but elsewhere across the country throughout the NLDS and World Series. Many top sports outlets reported on the campaign buzz that took over the city of Chicago and its Cubs fans.

Adidas wasn’t the only brand to jump on the campaign bandwagon and capitalize on the opportunity of the Chicago Cubs being in the World Series and having a chance to win their first World Series title in 108 years. Non-sports brands such a Jim Bean Bourbon and Uber also teamed up to launch a campaign during Game 3 of the World Series that offered free rides and discounts to baseball fans in Chicago throughout the Series that led to one of the most successful safe-ride Uber programs to-date.

And, after 108 years in the making, there wasn’t a media outlet from the U.S. to across the pond in the U.K. who didn’t cover the Chicago Cubs’ World Series victory in addition to President Obama personally inviting them to the White House.

“Fly the W” the Cubs certainly did in 2016.
-N


John Scott Rises to NHL All-Star Glory
Can we talk about what happened with the NHL and John Scott with 2016 All-Star Game (ASG) whirlwind?! For those of you who don’t know, Scott is a hockey enforcer who played sparingly during the 2016 season and was even demoted to the minor leagues for a time.

However, Scott became the beneficiary of a gratuitous social media campaign spearheaded by fans everywhere, with various NHL teams getting in on the action at times. He led ASG voting and served as the Pacific All-Stars team captain. The NHL hated it, even encouraging him to decline the invitation to play in the game that he earned through the fan vote! Oh yeah, a fan vote that the NHL stopped promoting once they saw the writing on the wall.

Then, despite scoring two goals in the ASG, Scott was left off the NHL’s options during an MVP vote. Much to their chagrin, the fans voted in droves for Scott, who was eventually named the ASG MVP.

A situation the NHL could’ve handled much differently, they instead tried to undermine a fan vote, convince John Scott not to show up in Nashville for the ASG at all, and then tried to ignore his performance in the actual game. Meanwhile, Scott garnered so much fan support and attention that the NHL failed to leverage; instead, they became a tone-deaf villain in the John Scott 2016 All-Star Game saga.
-Z

 

Leicester City - Foxtrotting Into the Spotlight
Most Americans have no clue where Leicester City is, or how to even pronounce it. But when the English football club won the Premier League in May 2016, they became the biggest underdog story in sports history.

Also known as the Foxes, Leicester City opened the year at around 5,000-1 odds to win the league. However, the perennial greats stumbled throughout the season while the Foxes used a Moneyball-esque approach to turn a seemingly mediocre roster into the best unit on British soil by 10 points in Premier League table.

The Premier League win drew wild attention and publicity to the club. The Foxes drew over 5.5 million mentions on Twitter in one night! They spike across several platforms is unprecedented in sports history and Leicester City should become an example of where brands can identify opportunities for high ROI partnerships by capitalizing on the landslide of coverage stemming from unpredicted, yet foreseeable success.

Puma, the team’s uniform sponsor, boosted production of Leicester kits to 90,000 units to meet new demand. Academic institutions in Leicester City have seen a spike in applications, similar to what American universities experience with NCAA football success known as the Flutie Effect. Simultaneously, the club’s owners, who also own King Power, a Thai duty-free company, want to parlay Leicester City’s on-field success into global and regional partnerships to further benefit the club’s brand.

While the honeymoon period for the Foxes is over, it will be interesting to see if the team can rebound on the field – they sit in 16th place after 18 games in the 2017 season -- and help establish a new, powerful brand in European soccer and capitalize on the media spotlight and momentum they’ve built or if the Foxes are a flash in the pan who will fade into sports trivia lore.
-Z

 

Baylor Football - Quick, Wake-up, It's a Scandal!
A sexual assault scandal consumed Baylor University and their football program in May 2016. Eventually, head football coach Art Briles, president Kenneth Starr, and athletic director Ian McCaw were all ousted due to their mishandling of two sexual assault cases involving two Baylor football players. Pepper Hamilton, a law firm hired by Baylor University to investigate the situation, concluded that key figures prioritized football over campus safety.

Media members have come after Baylor for the poor handling of both cases and the university’s reluctance to take responsibility for their failings and correct them in a timely manner. As the media circled around Baylor like a shark, the university administration failed to make the right statement, opting to remain quiet and assume Briles, Starr, and McCaws’ departures would be enough. They weren’t; it was blood in the water.

As the media cranked up the heat, things in Waco got really interesting. The football team began to feel the pressure, losing six games to finish out the regular season. Meanwhile, the associate athletic director and head of Baylor football’s media relations got a hot head and assaulted a reporter on the field after a game!

Other than the hiring of third-party Pepper Hamilton to investigate the situation, Baylor mishandled this situation and let a media firestorm rain down on the university and football program. The Baylor crisis is a great example of the necessity of transparency while also taking control of the story through detailed, comprehensive statements rather than hiding behind ambiguous policies and attorneys.
-Z

 

Twitter’s Live Stream, the NFL, and New PR Opportunities
NFL television ratings suffered against competition from the 2016 election. At it’s conclusion, the ratings rebounded and weekly viewership is just below what we’ve seen in recent years.

In April, Twitter paid 10 million dollars for the rights to air 10 NFL Thursday Night games this season in the hopes of attracting new users to the fold, likely cord cutters. During the first Twitter-NFL broadcast, during Week 2 of the season between the Jets and Bills, drew almost 250,000 viewers on average at any moment through the social media platform. While some cite such numbers as underwhelming, it’s clear that these live streams are a deliberate move to reach cord cutters -- often younger viewers -- and bring them into the fold as football fanatics.

ESPN’s subscription numbers have taken big hits this year and the NFL’s deal with Twitter is a forward-thinking move to compensate for the loss of traditional viewers a world where young people prefer freedom from expensive cable contracts that charge for channels they don’t want.

While this seems like a big challenge for established PR practices, it also provides a new opportunity for more athletes and brands to get involved in the action on social media surrounding sports. The issue here is getting your message to stand out, preventing it from becoming noise as platforms become flooded with new content. Expect a shift from endorsements and typical advertising to more lifestyle influencer, organic content. Think Snapchat’s story-mode, a platform that can provide viewers an ephemeral live look-in at what athletes and brands are doing at any moment.

Experimenting with types of content, frequency of posts, and finding how to blend key messaging across all platforms will be the tough tasks for sports PR professionals. This will require more time and commitment from athletes as brands will want more immersive content. Finding the right balance will be a major key to drive business for brands utilizing sport and athlete partnerships.
-Z

 

Deflategate
If you haven’t heard about Deflategate or aren’t vaguely familiar with what occurred, it’s safe to assume you’ve been living under a rock over the last two years. After a 544-day onslaught of press conferences, statement after statement, and the never-ending media coverage fueling the fire of the legal battle between the NFL and the New England Patriot’s star quarterback Tom Brady, the saga finally came to an end on July 15th, 2016.

And, when Tom Brady took the field for the first time after serving his four-game suspension, 631 days after the Deflategate drama started, what we learned was that Tom Brady’s public perception, brand image and long-term reputation as a superstar athlete -- likely to go down as the greatest quarterback in NFL history -- was ultimately undamaged and that Deflategate only further cast a shadow on the NFL. Furthermore, it brought even more negative attention to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his willingness to test the limits of his control over the NFL.

Cheers to a Deflategate free 2017!

-N

 

Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games
The city of Rio de Janeiro could not have been cast in a more negative light around the world ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. From heightened concerns about the safety of Olympians and spectators attending the Games, to untimely construction of the facilities, to pollution in the ocean, to the Zika virus scare, and the risk of possible terrorist activity, there was a plethora of concerns for the media to lambast.

Facing a global PR problem, in the end, Rio 2016 did not turn out to be the disaster anticipated by many and the problems that did end up affecting the Olympic athletes and tourists were relatively mild.

Coupled with this was social media asserting its place at Rio 2016 and it’s increased use by athletes, brands, press and fans from around the world. Previously the International Olympic Committee (IOC) attempted to limit others from using the Games’ logos and images. We finally saw the loosening of restrictions for social media use at Rio 2016. For the first time, Olympians were allowed to use social media to share their own Olympic experience with fewer guideline restrictions.

With the changes to Rule 40, which previously prohibited them, brands who were not IOC sponsors were allowed for the first time to launch social media campaigns as long as they didn’t use the official #Rio2016 hashtag, official logos of the Games or mentioning of the word Olympics. For these brands, we saw huge social media opportunities as many launched new campaigns that capitalized on an enormous amount of Olympic conversation.

"Although non-official brands were banned by the USOC and IOC for using Olympic footage and Olympic-themed content on social media, there were still some successes during the Games," stated Tariq Ahmad, Social Media Business Manager at IBM. "Perhaps the brand with the biggest impact was Under Armour, with their "Rule Yourself" campaign, which highlighted perennial gold medal winner Michael Phelps in his final Olympics. The campaign struck a chord with fans and fellow athletes everywhere, as one of the greatest Olympians ever was highlighted in a positive manner. Chobani's 'No Bad Stuff' campaign was also a success, using U.S. Olympic athletes to eat healthy and have a positive attitude. As people are becoming more health-conscious about what they eat, this was an engaging way to reach out to fans about mindful eating."

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Ryan Lochte Rio Stickup Story
As the Rio 2016 Games came to an end, just when Americans and others around the world were starting to see Rio in a different light than the unsafe, lawless city it was originally portrayed to be, one of the most decorated U.S. Olympic athletes, swimmer Ryan Lochte, rekindled the chaos image with his “stickup story.”

After initially stating that he (Lochte) and his fellow swimming teammates were robbed at gunpoint at a Rio gas station after a night of celebrating, a slew of media stories spread like wildfire about the U.S. Olympians who claimed to have been accosted by a gunman. Lochte even did an interview live from Rio on TODAY before heading back to the U.S. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) quickly issued an official statement, just a few minutes after Lochte’s TODAY interview, to confirm the validity of Lochte’s claims.

As Lochte and the others were pressed for more information though, it became clear that Lochte fabricated the actual events that night. In fact, there was no robbery at all; instead, Lochte vandalized advertising signage at the gas station where the incident with the four swimmers occurred. In an attempt to prevent the swimmers from leaving Rio so they could provide more testimony to the local authorities, a Brazilian judged ordered the seizure of the swimmer’s passports. However, Lochte had already left the country.

Unlike what happened with Maria Sharapova earlier in the year, Lochte not only failed to take responsibility for his actions or make a truthful statement to the police authorities and the worldwide press, he also landed the USOC and IOC in a mess with local Rio authorities, the media, and his fellow teammates.

Upon Lochte’s return to the U.S., with his teammates detained in Rio, he began backpedaling on his stickup story. In an attempt to revert the damage done to Team USA’s reputation during the 2016 Summer Olympics, Lochte posted an apology online followed by a sit down interview with Matt Lauer to take responsibility for his “immature behavior” and to clarify what really happened that night. Lochte admitted that he made up his original story because he was intoxicated when he first told it to the Rio authorities and that he never had a gun held to his head but that were guns were pointed in his direction (which was confirmed by video surveillance from the incident).

With numerous statements released by the additional Team USA swimmers, the USOC and Rio 2016 spokespersons following this, less than a month after the incident occurred Lochte was suspended for ten months by the USOC and USA Swimming and lost all his major endorsements.

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Colin Kaepernick Takes a Knee
In an attempt to show support for people of color who are being oppressed in the U.S. and to take a stand against police brutality, San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick remained seated in a silent protest during the national anthem before two NFL pre-season games.
 
Unnoticed until a photo was tweeted out after the second incident, the story quickly gained national attention with Kaepernick telling media after the game the reason he sat was because of “the oppression of people of color and the on-going issues with police brutality in our country.” Shortly thereafter, the 49ers released an official to statement to confirm that Kaepernick had been seated for the National Anthem in their last two games.
 
Kaepernick created an athlete movement across our country in the weeks that followed, with players of all races and genders across almost every sport kneeling during the National Anthem. He also announced that he would donate $1 million to the charities that focused on racial issues.
 
A demonstration followed by professional athletes in other sports such as the National Women Soccer League and WNBA, the movement not only sparked a national debate, but also spread to high school football fields, university varsity cheerleading squads, and even honor bands playing the national anthem at MLB games taking a knee.
 
Not only did fellow NFL players kneel for the national anthem in pre-season games, but also on the first day of the regular season, which came on the 15th anniversary of September 11th.
 
Some around the NFL did not take the gesture well. Drew Brees spoke out that there were plenty of other ways to do speak up for Kaepernick’s causes that didn’t require a seeming disrespect toward the American flag, stating that his protest was oxymoronic and that if “you’re sitting down, you’re disrespecting that flag that has given you the freedom to speak out.”
 
Landing on the cover of TIME magazine’s October 3rd issue, Kaepernick’s protest was a centerpiece for a larger conversation amongst professional athletes about sports activism and patriotism.

"Whether you agree or not with Kapernick’s taking a knee during the anthem, there’s one thing all of us in Sports PR can agree on. We can no longer overlook the power of a singular voice. It was only a few short years ago, that those of us in Sports PR could measure support v. non-support and make the decision to address a situation or not based solely on hard data," said Jim Morris, of Jim Morris Strategies and formerly with the NFLA.

"In today’s social media age, a single voice can capture headlines, constituents, and a movement. Especially when that voice is attached to someone or something that disrupts the norm. Kap’s movement has reminded us all in Sports PR that it is no longer the number of supporters or footprint of a movement that should cause us to act, rather, it is the size of the audience that will see, hear, and feel that singular voice. Disruption (no kneeling) coupled with the size of Kapernick’s audience makes this one of the top and most impactful stories of 2016. It also serves as a reminder that to cut through all the clutter of communication channels it often only takes disruption to get your message out."
 
Similar to our daily sports PR practices, two of the important things that stand out to us from the movement Kaepernick created are the “message” and how it was “delivered” which is something we are constantly evaluating in our everyday initiatives.
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Laremy Tunsil’s NFL Draft Slide
Laremy Tunsil was projected to be the first offensive lineman taken in the 2016 NFL Draft. However, just a few minutes before the draft started, his Twitter was apparently hacked by someone he knew who posted a video of Tunsil wearing a gasmask bong and smoking marijuana. As a result, some NFL teams – such as the Baltimore Ravens, who held the sixth overall pick – decided to pass on Tunsil; two offensive linemen were taken before him.

The video (http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonbelzer/2016/04/29/2016-nfl-draft-1st-round-rookie-salary-projections/#54bfb9947036) was only up for a few minutes but it cost Tunsil somewhere between $9 and $13 million dollars over the course of his initial four-year deal under the Rookie Compensation Pool, quite a financial hit for a twenty-two year old.

While Tunsil was the victim of a hack in this situation, it’s a powerful example of how these types of mishaps can damage an athlete’s brand and impact their value. Ultimately, Tunsil became a starter for the Miami Dolphins at left guard and played some left tackle as well, allowing only one sack and five quarterbacks hits, as the Dolphins made the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

The Dolphins were the major beneficiaries of Tunsil’s unique draft-day slide and Tunsil has been a model citizen in the NFL so far. However, you can’t help but wonder if Tunsil regrets his choice to take that video and his social media password management. It’s an important reminder for athletes to be wary of the pictures and videos they may be a part of -- whether they’re aware of it or not – and who they give access to social media accounts.
-Z

 

Golden State Warriors, Villains?
Does anyone remember when the Warriors were the good guys in the NBA?

It was sometime before Golden State owner Joe Lacob trumpeted that his organization was “light-years” ahead of the rest of the NBA on and off the court. Before Draymond Green melted down in the Finals and LeBron James and Kyrie Irving brought a championship to Cleveland; before the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead. Long before Kevin Durant, the NBA’s most prized free agent opted to leave the only team he’d ever played for to sign with the Warriors.

Don’t worry though, you don’t have to remember. The Warriors are more than happy to embrace a new role as the NBA’s biggest villains. Just check out the famous Bleacher Report musical. Just look at Draymond Green’s instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BMsV_0qALoc/.

It’s an interesting move because the Warriors’ three major superstars are well-liked by fans as individuals. Steph Curry was the first unanimous MVP in NBA history and he has a wildly popular shoe. Sure, his commercials are a bit cheesy but blame that on the producers, not him. Kevin Durant is an all-around good guy, with the major knock against him being that he left Oklahoma City, his first team. Didn’t LeBron James do something like that once? Maybe even twice? What about Klay Thompson? Well, Jerry West, the NBA logo vouches for him, so there’s that.

The sheer accumulation of talent combined with the fact that the least likeable member of the team, Draymond Green, is also the loudest has a lot to do with the new villain persona the sports media is trying to tie to the Warriors in the NBA narrative. It’s a unique position for the Warriors as a brand as well as Curry, Durant, and Thompson. All three players have shoe deals and are desirable partners for big companies. However, once you become a villain, you’re only relevant so long you’re winning or as part of the story of a hero’s triumph. Expect to see Curry, Durant, and Thompson’s personal representatives to encourage distance from this narrative, as it would be harmful to their individual brands in the long run.
-Z

 

Connor McGregor Taking it to the UFC
Conor McGregor is the hottest star in mixed martial arts and the UFC. Now he wants a stake in the company that sold for four billion dollars this year! McGregor boasted of a $40 million cumulative pull for his fights in 2016 but as he starts a family of his own, the boisterous superstar wants to position himself for ongoing financial success long after he retires from the octagon.

UFC president Dana White welcomes McGregor to buy a stake in the company, as 23 celebrities did in July 2015. However, this will be a situation to monitor since McGregor claims two belts, both of which he won in the ring, although the UFC insists the Irishman can only hold one title at a time.

If McGregor becomes a UFC stakeholder, he would be the only active competitor in professional sports to also own a stake in the organization in which they compete. This would bring about lots of new questions, such as McGregor’s ability to influence fighter rankings, future fight cards, and fight payouts.

While Dana White seems okay with the idea of letting McGregor buy into an equity share of the UFC, it would certainly raise a lot of questions about the integrity of at least the divisions McGregor is capable of fighting in. While it’s certainly important to keep your stars happy -- especially after a year where the rest of the UFC’s big names, like Ronda Rousey have fallen off – the UFC should keep its guard up while negotiating with the Notorious Conor McGregor.
-Z

D’Angelo Russell’s Phone, Who Dis?
The Los Angeles Lakers’ star point guard, D’Angelo Russell found himself in a feud with teammates earlier this year. Russell recorded fellow star Nick “Swaggy P” Young admitting to cheating on his then-fiancé without Young’s permission and the recording ended up going viral although it’s unclear how the video actually got out.

At the time, Russell was a rookie the Lakers spent a lottery pick on and who looked like the foundation the team would build around in a post-Kobe Bryant era. However, the video leak looked to blow up team chemistry on a nuclear level. It looked like the Lakers would have to trade Russell or the rest of the team in the month after the video surfaced. Russell was left hanging on numerous high-five occasions but it seems like he’s recovered.

Foot Locker used the episode as inspiration for a commercial (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohJckDIpSPQ) featuring Russell along with Ben Simmons, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Devin Booker and Nick Young even spoke up, essentially forgiving Russell and urging others to forget about it and move on.

Here, much like the Laremy Tunsil situation, it’s important to think about the content that we keep on our phones. While PR professionals strive to generate good stories and interest pieces involving their clients, it’s equally important to reinforce the importance of media platform access and phone security. High-profile clients should be provided with applications and tutorials and how to protect their phones, emails, even houses in order to avoid situations like those of Tunsil and Russell. After all, just one instance like this can undo all the good PR work you’ve managed.
-Z