This summer, Public Relations Nation is occasionally featuring research by Hofstra University graduate students. This capstone paper was authored by Taylor Pirone who earned her MA in public relations in May:
“While the majority of viewers are not allowing the negativity to keep them from watching football, the domestic violence conflicts have still shaped the perception of both the media and the public,” Tyler wrote in her paper titled, “Domestic Violence in the NFL: An Analysis of Fan Perception.” Taylor conducted 133 surveys; Hofstra student-athletes made up about two-thirds of the respondents, with the remainder divided among non-student-athletes and faculty. Three focus group interviews were also conducted, one with female athletes, a second with male athletes, and a third with non-athlete students.
In the survey, participants rated the effectiveness of the National Football League’s policy on domestic violence on a scale of 1 to 10. The average response was just under a five. When asked to explain how the NFL’s stance on domestic violence shaped their perceptions of the league, the three most common responses were, “It does not shape my opinion,” “The league only cares about money,” and “Athletes are above the law.” Over 85% of the respondents recognized that the NFL has the highest crime rate among professional sports leagues, and 11% were in favor of a lifetime ban for players successfully convicted of domestic violence.
“The NFL has established a baseline policy for dealing with domestic violence, but they have not followed it,” Taylor noted. She concluded that the NFL continues to fall short in their handling of these incidents as well as the bad PR which follows. “From a public relations standpoint, the NFL must do a more efficient job dealing with domestic violence cases, including being more efficient in following the policies that are in place to penalize players,” she wrote. “The NFL also needs a more solid crisis communication plan to deal with the media when a domestic violence incident occurs. Additionally, the NFL must continue to support organizations that stand up against domestic violence and continue to raise awareness for domestic violence survivors.”