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The Minnesota Vikings PR Soap Opera

The Minnesota Vikings are grateful for two things this week:

  1. Wade Phillips, who became the former Dallas Cowboys’ coach when owner Jerry Jones pulled the plug on his tenure, Monday.
  2. Vikings’ quarterback Brett Favre’s career performance of 466 yards and a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday.

The former is what bumped the Twin Cities’ version of ‘The View’ from this week’s National Football League headlines. The Cowboys’ collapse seemed to occur on the field despite a roster that’s flush with talent. There are lots of theories about lackluster performances that I will leave to media and people within the organization to explain. The Vikings, on the other hand, have a PR problem of their own making.

It’s easy to sit in our easy chairs and soak in the gabfest turned soap opera that we see from Minnesota each day. The fact is that the organization has become Chilly in more ways than one. It may have begun with head coach Brad Childress airport express service to pick up Favre from the airport after he signed with the team last season, but it’s evolved to public infighting among players and the head coach this year.

Winning masks a lot of ills and that was never more evident than last season. The Vikes were within striking distance of a Super Bowl berth and looked physically superior to their competition en route to the NFC title game. This year the men from the MinnyApple are an injured squad physically and emotionally with a losing record, and trash that was likely swept into the corner of the locker room last season, is littering media space. What’s worse, the public is consuming crazy reports like recently released Randy Moss’ food rant, like rubber-neckers looking at a bad accident on the other side of a highway. It’s not pretty. More importantly, from a PR standpoint, it’s not necessary.

It’s human nature to want to express opinions and be heard, but when it comes to a high-profile sports organization, negative words and actions are best handled in-house. It’s management’s responsibility to assure the team that ugly stuff won’t see light beyond the locker room corridor.  When leadership can’t control players’ badmouthing and in this case, becomes part of the negative mouthpiece, there’s trouble. As a PR professional, I shake my head and consider the embarrassment.

While old-time soap operas are being cancelled, the Vikings’ have kept their own thriving and attracting viewers. Whatever becomes of the story, I respectfully suggest the following to keep whatever happens with the Vikings, within the organization:

  1. Make a concerted effort to play hard on the field and leave the off-the-field garbage to trash collectors. Don’t feed the latter’s curiosity by slipping bits of information to the media (that means you, Brett and Chilly!)
  2. Don’t sack each other in public. Childress said he was joking when he told media after the win against Arizona (and I paraphrase)  “that he didn’t need a hug like Brett.” I’m no mind reader, but I’d bet my next piece of chocolate that the jab was intended to stab like a javelin.
  3. Play to win. There’s nothing else fans want or expect from you. Got a problem with the catered lunch? Send a runner out for something else, eat and be quiet about it. Don’t like the coach’s calls? You’re a professional. Play hard and take up your disagreements with the coach or if necessary, get ownership on the phone and air your concerns. Don’t care for a player’s attitude? Meet privately with said player and compromise; you knew the personalities you put in place and it’s your job to make them work as a team as best as humanly possible.

Doing anything differently bruises the NFL and paints the organization with a black and purple eye.

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Image by xoque

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