Gut check time if you work for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
No, it has nothing to do with the fact that your team started the season with a 3-3 record and are currently 1.5 games behind the Colorado Rockies in the baseball Standings.
It has everything to do with what happened on opening day, when a San Francisco Giants fan was beaten and kicked until he wound up in a hospital in a medically induced coma.
This is crisis communications 101 folks,where events happen that you cannot initially control. The learning here is what is done from the point an event happens that you do not expect nor plan for and how a person or team reacts moving forward.
Fact: Bryan Stow, a life-long San Francisco Giants fan was attacked by two men in the Dodger Stadium parking lot on opening day. He remains in the hospital and the two men that attacked him have yet to be found.
Reaction: An initial reward was set for, I believe, $10,000 was raised to $25,000 and currently stands at $100,000. From a perception standpoint, the Dodgers did not move fast enough t get out in front of this story and the media has dragged the team through the mud as the fan lay motionless in a hospital bed. The team did issue a press release on April 6th and announced that it had hired “former Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton to assess policies and procedures related to security and fan services at Dodger Stadium, and to work with the Dodger organization to develop a best practices security blueprint that extends to both the stadium and the parking lots.”
It has not been enough. News stories have run with this story and as I was driving around southern California yesterday, I was flipping radio stations and it seemed each one were taking their shots at the team and asking fans what they should change to improve safety.
One poll asked fans if they should ban beer altogether at the stadium (this will never happen) to having craned hover over stadium sections to observe people in parking lots. Everyone was having a field day with the story.
Even former radio show hosts.
Radio personality Tom Leykis, who has been off the air since his former program and station was turned into a pop music station for ratings, added $50,000 to reward for information on Dodger Stadium beating suspects, more money than the team itself. More bad news on the perception front for the team.
In a related move, the San Francisco Giants, who return home starting tonight, have all sortsof festivities planned. They will receive their world series rings, honor past Giants stars and the games are sold out. The team also proactively took a step to dedicate this Monday’s game to the inured Giants fan, Bryan Stow. According to an article posted on the team’s web site, the Giants will collect donations from fans on behalf of Stow to benefit a fund set up for the family to help care for their son.
Additionally, according to a Giants press release issued on April 5th, the team will pay tribute to him during its pre-game ceremonies. The Giants are partnering with Bryan’s employer, American Medical Response, to collect donations at the gates and throughout the ballpark for The Bryan Stow Fund. Approximately, 100 of his fellow paramedics will volunteer for this effort. The Giants will make an initial $10,000 contribution to The Bryan Stow Fund and encourage all fans to give what they can. The Giants Community Fund will also hold a silent auction during Monday’s game with all proceeds benefiting the The Bryan Stow Fund.
That my friends, is how a team should react when something like this happens. it is the right things to do.
Here is what the Dodgers need to do to get out in front of this story that, unfortunately will not go away as long as Bryan remains hospitalized.
1) Attack the dangerous security perception like at no other time in team history. Something must be done, real an impactful as well as from a visible standpoint. Hiring former LA chief of police to investigate the safety concerns is a no-brainer. However, I hear chatter from Dodger fans that think the stadium is not safe and will not take children to games anymore. The team needs strong actions to reverse this perception, be it true or not.
2) Safety has to change inside the stadium (in the seats) as well as in the parking lots. People say the bleacher sections have turned too rowdy. I can’t verify this since I have not sat there in a long, long time. However, perception is reality and the team needs to take a stand now. Under the O’Malley family, which is the time I had the honor of serving, Peter maintained a truly family atmosphere. Bring it back.
3) The Dodgers need to make a significant contribution to the Bryan Stow Fund. Lawyers will probably say that is admitting guilt, but it is the right thing to do.
4) Every series the Dodgers play the Giants for the rest of the season, the team needs to have a prominent button to pay pal displayed on the Dodgers web site, encouraging fans to make donations that will go to the Bryan Stow fund. This event not only affects the team but the perception might be that Dodgers fans don’t care about others. Time to prove that perception is wrong and the team now has the opportunity to change that image and ask their fans to step up along with the team.
5) I would encourage the team to set up a rapid response team for anything safety related around Dodger sStadium. Fans should know about a special number that if anything goes wrong, they can call a special number and someone will be there in two minutes or less. The team has to trust and live up to this promise or its a worthless promise. I checked the Dodgers website to see if this was in place, team safety tips on the team’s website were pretty generic” watch for cars, know the speed limit, blah, blah, blah.
6) This last one is a little far fetched, but in times when the perception effects the type of fans they should be attracting, something drastic actions need to be considered. So, please consider this. Do what an NFL football team has done in the past. Hire a retired judge and set up a mini court and jail onsite. Arrest out of control fans for public drunkenness and other bad behavior and send them to the pokie on the spot. Create a reason for people to act more responsible.