How Paint Made People Lose Their Minds

HOF Pres David Scott Heckel)

Brow of Embarrassment. NFL Hall of Fame President David Baker wipes his forehead prior to an interview. Baker and the Hall of Fame had to cancel their preseason game to due poor field conditions created by using the wrong type of paint. Photo by, Scott Heckel)

This is what happens when an exhibition is supposed to be played by athletes making millions of dollars in an organization worth billions of dollars. When the game cannot take place, analysts call for others to lose their jobs, calls of ineptitude abound, and finger pointing runs rampant.

Sunday, Aug. 7 was a busy day in sports which included baseball players Ichiro Suzuki reaching 3,000 hits and A-Rod announcing his retirement,  golfer Jim Furyk hitting a PGA Tour record round of 58, and U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky smashing her own world record in the Olympics, which looked something like the image below; note: she’s on the far right.

Katie Ledecky_ESPN

She gone! U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky blows away the field in her Olympic race as she breaks her own world record.

In addition, there was a furor created when the NFL had to cancel its “Hall of Fame” preseason game in Canton, Ohio between the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts.

The stadium was brand new, the field was brand new, and unfortunately, so was the paint, which the wrong kind was applied just 12 hours earlier. This proved to be key sticking point, literally. Players and coaches complained that parts of the field either felt like concrete or felt like running in tar. In technical terns, the paint congealed and wouldn’t allow a cleat to penetrate it. As a result, the game was canceled.

Yes, fans paid their money and spent their time to be there. Yes, the game was supposed to be the culmination of celebrating the latest Hall of Fame class of players inducted the night before. Yes, there is no excuse to not have a field ready when the date has been determined a year in advance.

When a crisis like this occurs and an audience needs to be addressed – in this case the millions watching at home and the thousands in attendance – it can be a complicated dance. However, here are three things the NFL Hall of Fame actually did well in announcing the result of their crisis, taking the hit head on*:

  1. Front and Center: Often when things go awry, it’s easy to blame outside factors or even hide your organization’s top leaders. The NFL HOF had their President, David Baker, address the crowd directly and then proceeded with follow-up interviews.
  2. Simple Messaging: Instead of listing a complicated technical explanation of why the field wasn’t ready or how paint couldn’t dry, Baker simply did the following:
    1. Explained to the crowd why the game was being cancelled (poor field conditions created by the paint)
    2. Reinforced key messages (safety is our main priority)
    3. Informed customers how they would be compensated (refund policy)
    4. Outlined what actually would take place that evening (still honor new Hall of Famers, previously scheduled halftime performance would still take place, just earlier).
  3. Rinse and Repeat: In subsequent interviews, he stayed on point – admittedly and rightfully embarrassed – to explain the situation, express regret, and vow to correct the problem in the future.

Even with these three “rights,” there was one awkward matter that still occurred. Those closest to the action were the last to know … it was announced on TV the game was being cancelled nearly a full hour before fans inside of the stadium were told. Oh well, as they say in sports, there’s always next year.


*Pun not intended; the NFL has serious concussion issues which is a whole other topic altogether.


How the $9B NFL Has a Credibility Problem

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, subjective judge/jury/executioner

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

People do dumb things. Some, worse than others. Then there are some so despicable, you can hardly believe it.

The most recent example as far as the National Football League (NFL)* is concerned was a player beating his fiancée senseless, then dragging her lifeless body out of an elevator. I won’t mention the scumbag by name, and there are many, much deeper issues that are at play here. Yesterday, the NFL decided that this was merely worth a two-game suspension. Like I said, people do dumb things.

Whether it be the employees of an organization or the players of a league, consequences should be clearly outlined for certain behaviors. However, the NFL – and specifically the commissioner – continues to lose credibility in this category.

The NFL does not have a consistent, stated list of consequences for player (and owner) behavior. Essentially, it is up to the commissioner’s discretion, each on a case-by-case basis, as to what, if any, the punishment will be and to what extent. Case in point: players in the past year who have committed seemingly less “crimes,” such as taking performance-enhancing substances, or recreational drugs, have received upwards of twice the punishment as the scumbag mentioned earlier.

Credibility in an organization can be achieved with this simple formula:
Objectivity + Consistency = Credibility

  • Be Objective: This is why the CEO of a large corporation doesn’t run the HR or Compliance Departments. It removes any doubt of impartiality when deciding punishment.
  • Be Consistent: The same rules or punishment should apply to all people that commit the same rule infractions.
  • Be Credible: Have rules clearly stated, consequences clearly defined, and a third-party determining the result. Save the organizational leader for an appeal or the extremely serious matters.

We all know life is not fair, but when employees are held to different standards or receive a different punishment based on subjective observation, that creates a groundswell of mistrust within an organization. And the ground is definitely shaking in the NFL.

* While it has been joked that it stands for the “No Fun League” (we can’t have our employees celebrating too much playing the game they’ve loved since a kid), or the “Not For Long” League (average career is less than four years), it is quickly gaining a reputation as the “Not Fair League.”