What the NFL Should do NOW to Mitigate a Social Media Crisis

The NFL‘s quarterback of their social media strategy is about to be sacked. The question is, whether the pass will get off before the team suffers a major loss of yardage.

Referee Throwing Flag - LockoutWhether they admit it or not, the National Football League is currently in the midst of a social media crisis. The league is in dispute with referees this season and remains committed to a lockout that places amateurs in the place of senior, skilled, professionals at every game. The greatest impact so far occurred last night. In a game-deciding call in the Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks game, a wrong decision was made, according to most analysts.

In responding to this incident, the NFL does not seem to have learned from historic social media crises. To mitigate this issue, the league should follow the S.O.C.I.A.L. Media leadership principles. I presented these principles at a leadership conference last month. Here’s how I suggest the National Football League execute these principles, now:


The league must remember their responsibility to serve all stakeholders. This includes the administration, players, investors, referees and yes, especially the fans. To do this, resolving the lockout should be their top priority.


The league should recognize that in this Social generation, transparency is demanded. Therefore, they should proclaim their position clearly in very open forums. As of this writing, there is only tactical analysis from their website, Facebook page and Twitter account – no opinion or official perspective. These perspectives should be stated prominently and openly.


Stakeholders of the NFL have massive connections. Whether it’s highly respected players, like Drew Brees (1.3 million followers) or the countless fans and their fans, the influence of impacted stakeholders is immeasurable. Therefore, the NFL should connect directly at a very personal level with as many of the largest influencers as possible. To date, this does not seem to be happening.

Drew Brees Tweet About NFL Refeee Lockout


The transparency demanded by stakeholders today means integrity is the baseline ticket for entry to our stadium. Unfortunately, there are plenty of commentators that believe it is greed motivating the NFL to resist solving this lockout. As a result, integrity is perceived as weak, at best. If the motivation is anything other than greed, this perception should be addressed.


This is perhaps the most flagrant concern so far. The game ended last night before midnight (US EST). Yet, there is no official post from the NFL as of 7 AM this morning. In the old world, that would be no big issue, yet. In the social media revolution, this is an eternity – just ask Kenneth Cole from his #Cairo debacle.


Finally, the NFL needs to listen to their stakeholders. The outpouring of frustration is large and growing – mostly because the referees, fans and players feel the administration and owners refuse to listen. Fans are walking and the brand’s reputation is fleeting because the NFL refuses to listen.

It’s the final seconds of the 4th quarter and the NFL has been backed up by their failure to perform as a team. The question now is not whether a referee will make the right call or not. Instead, it is a question of whether the coach will make the right call and the team will respond in time to save the game.

Question: What do you think? Is the NFL addressing this issue right?


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Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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