Public Relations are a tricky thing, one wrong move and you’ve put yourself in a deeper pit than the one originally dug. The most peculiar thing I have seen with public relations is how much change you can see in a walk across the street. Specifically, a street in downtown Baltimore, and even more specifically, the two teams that street separates, the Baltimore Orioles and the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens are seen a somewhat as a PR haven, not too many big events and they know how to advertise their product. The Orioles, on the other hand, are…subpar at best, while no one really ever gets in trouble, they do not know how to advertise, their “Together We Play” is horrible, and as much as I hate to say it, falls miles short of “Natitude”. Excuse me while I go eat soap.
Last week, roles were flopped big time. The Ravens star running back, Ray Rice, was arrested on a simple assault charge after punching his fiancee. The Orioles inked Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year contract and had nothing but good news flowing out. I think everyone was a bit floored to hear that themselves.
What makes Rice’s arrest so surprising is because of the image he built of himself, with his huge anti-bullying campaign, involvement in the community, and contributions to charity. I think Rice was everyone’s last pick to get in trouble during the offseason, let alone get in trouble for domestic assault. Personally, my pick would be Joe Flacco, I mean, the man goes to Micky D’s after signing a 126 million dollar contract, how much more tame could you get?
One could discuss the repercussions of Rice’s actions till the cows come home, but what I want to look at how his actions affect the Ravens’ reputation. The Ravens have had their fair share of scandals in the past, most notably “The White Suit” incident, where linebacker Ray Lewis was charged with obstruction of justice after destroying evidence after a shooting in Atlanta, where he ultimately took a plea deal on. The ones not too many people seem to remember is when Pro Bowl running back Jamal Lewis got indicted on federal drug charges with the intent to distribute in February of 2004, and recently, “The Love Bus” where wide receiver Jacoby Jones was apparently hit over the head with a champagne bottle by a stripper, seems to have faded from memory, at least to me.
Now with Rice, domestic violence is a whole other beast. You can sell drugs or be caught illegally with guns and the public can forgive. You hit a woman? People lose their collective marbles, not to downplay Rice’s actions, what he did was ten degrees of wrong, but the public can go a little nuts when this happens. Because of this, the public’s perception of Rice is already changing, he being vilified, his character is being verbally shit on, and all his actions beforehand are being disregarded, the biggest shame all of this, I think. With people’s views of Rice changing, eyes are slowly shifting towards the Ravens organization to hear their say on what’s happening. Needless to say, the Ravens’ brass needs to pick their words carefully in the coming month.
The Ravens’ reputation remains intact, for now at least. Sadly, it has already begun to fluctuate even though not all facts have come to light. If and when punishment is handed down by the NFL, the perception of the Ravens will already have changed. The change in the public’s perception towards a player/team happens very quickly and a stigma is attached regardless of if the party is found guilty or not, examples of this include Big Ben’s sex scandal and the Seahawks’ “Adderall-gate”. The only way the Ravens can escape this stigma will be if they cut Rice, which will not be the best thing to do money-wise. All cap space gained by the salary cap increasing would be negated and then some. The only way the blow can be softened is with a public apology by Rice and an actual effort by him to seek forgiveness and work out problems with his wife. Which based off Torrey Smith comments, he is already working on that.
Another issue this situation does is really undermine head coach John Harbaugh, who has fought tooth and nail to get do away with the Ravens’ “bad boy” image, but to be honest, I don’t think anyone buys it for a second, especially when Terrell Suggs talks smack about Ben Roethlisberger, and Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on a constant basis.
We won’t know how badly the Ravens’ image will be hurt by this for some time, but the stigma is already forming, and it’s one of the worst ones you can get. I mean, seriously, Donte Stallworth got indicted of manslaughter and not too many people batted an eyelash when a team signed him. Domestic violence isn’t taken lightly in any circles, so expect the public outcry to be large.
Image Credit: Wallstreethotrod