WASHINGTON — For a team whose identity on and off the field reached an utter crisis Thursday, an undeniable nadir after 15 women alleged devastating sexual misconduct in the Washington Post, the actions from the franchise’s front office may soon seal the organization’s fate.
But what can be done when trust in the institution is utterly trampled? What must be immediately acted upon, when additional disturbing allegations could be revealed against Washington’s NFL team?
In a wide-ranging interview, veteran public affairs consultant Andrew Kirtzman said the answer for the besieged team is simple: do the right thing, and the public relations will fall into place.
Yet more precise prescriptions may also be in order, actions which could likely lead to more painful days in the near-term, while instilling a sense that change will be non-negotiable in the long run.
Kirtzman specializes in crisis management, and is the founder and president of the New York-based consulting firm, Kirtzman Strategies. Below are excerpts of the discussion between Kirtzman and WUSA9, edited lightly for clarity and style.
WUSA9: Andrew, if you were put in a position of handling this immense crisis, what would you do here?
Andrew Kirtzman: Well, there's an old expression in crisis management, which is first, do the right thing and the public relations will fall into place. And that's what the team has to do. They have to take stock of what's wrong with the organization. They've already let go some of the people involved in this. But, they need to clean house in a way that satisfies the public that this organization has understood what's wrong, and has done something about it.
WUSA9: So, what would you do with the alleged nondisclosure agreements involved in this scandal? The Post reports some of the accusers signed legal agreements with the team and cannot speak freely.
Andrew Kirtzman: So, the team has taken some positive steps, in that they've disassociated themselves from some of the accused. On the other hand, they are refusing to let the alleged victims out of their nondisclosure agreements. Which basically means, they seem to be covering up problems or covering up sexual harassment.
Andrew Kirtzman: Eventually, the NDAs are going to have to go. Public pressure is going to build. The legal team should get rid of the agreements now, to make it seem as though they're doing it somewhat voluntarily, instead of doing it when their position is untenable.
WUSA9: You also mentioned that the team’s leadership seems to be hiding behind print statements, from your point of view, correct?
Andrew Kirtzman: Right. Mr. Snyder is not commenting, except through a written statement. And that's not going to work. Eventually, he will have to kind of come out publicly and talk about what has gone wrong under his watch. Again, he should do so now, instead of enduring the torture of having the pressure build and having a spotlight increase on him. Until eventually, he's forced to come out and speak publicly.
WUSA9: Do you think the team’s crisis trajectory can be changed? Do you think if its management were to follow your advice, it could make a difference with fans potentially coming back with forgiveness?
Andrew Kirtzman: I think that the public can be enormously forgiving, if they sense that things are being done sincerely and honestly. There can be no cover up here. And the public must be willing to see that people in this organization are willing to change.