Top 5 PR Nightmares In Sports

cheetah woods

Let’s touch down on the top PR disasters in sports.

Public relation scandals are nothing new to professional sports. Some incidents are almost laughable and often completely avoidable. Although many are hard hitting serious issues that deal with crime, our list focuses purely on issues that don’t end in jail time.

That being said, if there are any PR disasters that we missed, you are more than welcome to share your thoughts! Otherwise, take a seat and enjoy our top 5 cringe worthy moments that happen when public relations and professional sports meet.

  1. No Comment

Who could forget about this embarrassing and beyond awkward interview between Stan Van Gundy, the press and Dwight Howard? After having confirmed that Van Gundy heard from “people in our management right from the top,” that Dwight Howard requested that he be fired from the Orlando Magics. Howard approaches Van Gundy without any recollection of what was just shared with the media. Van Gundy then leaves Howard to stumble and deny his way through a series of questions. Think this interview is as bazar as it sounds? Take a look and tell us what you think.



Although hashtags are a great way to get attention, sometimes it generates unwanted, negative attention. NCAA President Mark Emmert was no exception to this when he appeared on “Mike and Mike”.

Emmert was eviscerated when someone came up with the brilliant idea to encourage users to use the hashtag #AskEmmert as an opportunity to ask the president questions. They did not spoil the chance and this Q&A session quickly began to resemble an online edition of Comedy Central’s Roast.

A few examples of the #AskEmmert tweets
  1. #SochiProblems

This all began when BBC reporter Steven Rosenberg posted an image of one stall with two toilets, which went viral and became the unofficial symbol of the winter games. Business Insider pegged Sochi’s cost at the most expensive in Olympic History. Where will $50 billion get you, you may ask. The worldwide trending topic, #SochiProblems will lead you to believe that it’s not far ahead of open manholes, stray dogs, people hired to kill stray dogs and who can forget that tinted water? Shout out to the public relations team at Airbnb, who took advantage of this crisis and became the unsung heroes of the winter games. Here is a video showing how Airbnb was quick to react by tweeting directly to journalists with available Airbnb listings in Sochi:

  1. Cheetah Woods

Can we even talk about PR nightmares without bringing up one of the most scandalous sports moments in the last decade? Of course we are talking about when Tiger Woods’ nice boy image proved to be just that – an image.

Following Woods’ car crash and recent revelations of his affair, the superstar golfer’s image not only took a hit from fans but also from huge endorsement deals.

ESPN reported that due to these incidents, Woods lost roughly $22 million in deals in 2010 alone.

Social Media Management WEEK 1
This scandal was the head of all tabloids for many months in 2010.
  1. NFL Concussions

Concussions are a constant battle that the NFL has to face. The league seems to have caught a break this year with other issues coming to the front, such as Tom Brady’s inflated football and Ray Rice’s abusive ways. The thing is, these types of issues will eventually fade away into oblivion. Not concussions. Concussions will continue to be a problem for the foreseeable future. Backed by science, it will be hard for any PR team to justify the NFL and its concussion protocol. After every report that comes out, including startling revelations from former players, people are forced to wonder whether this sport is indeed too dangerous. Below is a trailer for “League of Denial” a PBS special that reveals the hidden story of the NFL and brain injuries.

To conclude, these are only a few of the many scenarios public relation professionals have to deal with on a daily basis. These very diverse instances all demand a different call to action. From a simple press conference to taking over twitter, all of these mishaps have, or will be handled by the Olivia Pope of the sports industry. Next time you find yourself thinking about how calm and collective a professional athlete seems in the face of a scandal, remember that there is without a PR professional to thank.


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