Super Bowl controversies have a familiar ring to business professionals
The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks face off in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, but much of the pregame media coverage has focused on topics unrelated to who will bring home the Lombardi Trophy.
Controversy surrounding proper football inflation and other distractions has dominated pre-Super Bowl discussions, which may make running an NFL team sound like just another day at the office for many business professionals. Whether or not you’re a football fan, if you’ve worked in business, it’s likely that these scenarios have a familiar ring to them:
1. It’s the little things. The proper inflation of a game-day football may seem like a minor detail, but questions about the footballs used in the AFC Championship Game have blown up into a major media storm in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. A business professional’s life is filled with attention to details like these — from making sure the right questions are asked during a job interview to ensuring that employment law posters are properly displayed. If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s worth the effort to pay attention to the details that keep a business in compliance with employment laws, look no further than the “Deflategate” controversy.
2. Deflation investigation. As the NFL looks into the deflated footballs that were used in this year’s AFC title game, they’ll interview dozens of people. One of those questioned will be Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. He won’t have to be alone while officials ask him questions, however. An official from the NFL Players Association can accompany him — thanks to Brady’s Weingarten rights.
Under the National Labor Relations Act, a union employee can have a union representative present during an investigatory interview that could result in discipline. These rights are usually more closely associated with the National Labor Relations Board than the NFL, but it doesn’t matter whether the employee works with an offensive line or on an assembly line — a union official gets to be part of the investigatory huddle when a covered employee is being questioned. Whenever a workplace investigation is conducted, proper protocol needs to be followed.
3. Lots of hot air. Answering question after question about football inflation can make it challenging to concentrate on what’s really important, such as preparing for a game with a television audience of more than 100 million viewers. When a seemingly minor problem derails the typical workday routine, it’s up to business leaders to take charge and communicate a strategy for dealing with the issue. If a business owner or manager ignores a growing problem, it can burst a team’s unity. Confronting it allows the team to see it in its proper perspective, focus on work goals, and be ready for the game-day deadline.
4. Too little hot air. Lost in the Deflategate controversy has been the trouble one of the Patriots’ opponents causes every time he reluctantly steps in front of a microphone — or hesitates to do so. Seattle running back Marshawn Lunch has made no secret of his distaste for media interviews, giving curt answers and threatening not to participate in pregame Super Bowl press conferences. As good as he is on the field, these off-the-field refusals to play the media game could result in a significant fine. Can the NFL really do that? Sure, even though answering questions has nothing to do with scoring touchdowns. Lynch is expected to do his job, even the parts he finds distasteful. An employer has to walk a fine line between keeping superstars happy and making sure they don’t develop an attitude that tarnishes the brand as a whole.
While a typical workday lacks the glamour of the Super Bowl, the issues that NFL personnel face aren’t that much different from those seen in workplaces across the country. Paying attention to how they’re handled can help a team of coworkers recover from similar workplace fumbles and come out winners.
Terri Dougherty is an associate editor for J.J. Keller & Associates. She writes about topics ranging from drug-free workplaces to employment law posting requirements.
Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.