The latest off-field debacle for Ryan Leaf of the San Diego Chargers , Leaf reportedly shouted obscenities at general manager Bobby Beathard and a training coach , spelled yet another PR nightmare for the team.
Days after Leaf was suspended for four weeks without pay and fined a week’s salary, which will cost him nearly $74,000, the NFL Players Association filed a grievance on Leaf’s behalf.
Chargers PR director Bill Johnston couldn’t discuss the Nov. 1 incident because of pending arbitration. Johnston did, however, talk about how the team handled media relations surrounding it.
He noted the Chargers are in a unique position, compared to most private companies. “We have a large media contingent that covers us every day,” he said. “Every move we make is highly scrutinized.”
According to Johnston, the incident took place on a Monday afternoon, as players were leaving for the day. Management immediately began collecting information about what happened from eyewitnesses, he said.
On Tuesday, after the decision to discipline Leaf was made, and the Chargers’ staff was notified, the media was called for a briefing.
Johnston wrote a statement for the press, outlining actions the team had taken. It said that Leaf’s conduct was “detrimental to the team” and the penalty was the maximum permitted under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. He said he had to be careful about the language and phrasing because of the possibility of arbitration. Johnston said he found out from the NFL Management Council what could and could not be said.
Because little official information was given, Johnston wasn’t surprised that the media dug up more on the story. Many people had witnessed what had happened, he said.
Also, the day the story broke was the players’ day off, he said, and the team had little access to them for media relations advice on the situation, he said.
Even so, Johnston said, the players have a “subcontractor” role and are relatively free to comment on stories.
Johnston said he is pleased with how the team handled the incident, but couldn’t comment as to whether the media’s reports were accurate.
“Obviously, we were disappointed that the incident took place,” he said. “It was something that you never wanted to see happen.
“Our business is a very volatile, emotional business and things happen. No. 1, you don’t want them to get outside the organization and become public. Unfortunately in this case, we had to take action, which would then make this public.”
Via E-mail, local PR pros weighed in as to how they would handle the situation.
Alan Ziegaus, partner at Stoorza, Ziegaus & Metzger, Inc.: “I don’t think Ryan Leaf is in a classic crisis. He’s simply misbehaving, and there’s no solution for that type of conduct.”
Dave Nuffer, chairman, Nuffer Smith Tucker, Inc.: “No amount of public relations help will salvage Ryan Leaf’s image or reputation until he seriously examines his approach to life, and, if not pleased, does something about it.”
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Status Chart: The Flowers Group was hired by five Las Vegas hotels to create an employee marketing program to promote Las Vegas vacations. The local agency was also hired by the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park to produce a holiday guide promoting holiday visits and offers. Other attractions and businesses, such as Legoland California and Pacific Bell are joining the promotion, of which 600,000 copies will be made and distributed throughout San Diego County, Orange County and Riverside. McQuertergroup was hired by Bay Area wireless access system designer Adicom Wireless Inc., handset manufacturer LG Information & Communications, Ltd. in San Diego, Columbia, Md.-based Tecore, La Jolla-based “smartphones” developer NeoPoint, Inc., and market research firm Answers Research, Inc. in Solana Beach. Bailey/Gardiner signed San Diego-based broker and dealer Pacific American Securities and locally based SeatAdvisor.com. Spear/Hall & Associates was hired by local basketball team the San Diego Stingrays, locally based Promark, which produces coupon benefit book for sports teams and health and fitness businesses, La Costa golf tournament Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship, YachtFest San Diego and the recent Wheelchair Tennis Championship in Point Loma. Drasnin Communications in Del Mar was hired by Sunset Parking Service in Solana Beach, Rancho Bernardo-based Myriad Software, and, for PR, Digital Video Clips Direct, which is owned by a Peoria, Ill.-based company. San Diego-based Writing & Visual Concepts will create a brochure for the law practice of local attorney James G. Boyd. Cassle Communications was hired to conduct marketing communication programs for Cal Custom Manufacturing in Santee, Catalina Communities’ Painted Hills Ranch in Tucson, Ariz., and Reynolds Communities’ Sun Crest in Alpine. Catalina and Sun Crest are both based in El Cajon. Among recent production projects for San Diego-based Dakota Group are TV spots for Hewlett Packard, QB1.com, UCSD Healthcare and Surevision Eye Centers.
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Sound Bites: Jack Cannon, PR director for the USD, is leaving his post at the end of the year to become counselor for the university’s newly established Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. Before joining USD, Cannon was with the State Department for 28 years. With his new position, he’ll be traveling to Washington, D.C., and other cities to set up advisory boards and lining up conferences on peacemaking issues. USD’s currently looking for his replacement in the PR Department, he said. Andrew Kleske, former editor-in-chief of the Downtown business daily San Diego Daily Transcript, is joining the North County Times as online editor. Cox Communications is adding the Filipino Channel, a 24-hour Tagalog-language station, to its programming on Nov. 15. There are also staff changes at the San Diego Business Journal. Assistant editor Leonard D. Ash is departing for China, where he’ll work as a “foreign expert” at the Shanghai Daily, a start-up English-language newspaper. Special reports writer Julie Brown will take his place.
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‘Net-Workings: Reporters and editors at the Business Journal are now available via personal E-mail. (See the “Newsmakers” section in the Nov. 1 issue for a complete list of E-mail addresses and beats.) As for this column, please send comments, suggestions and , of course , items to (email@example.com).
The deadline for the next media/marketing column is Dec. 2.