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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sayreville Football Reverses Error: Program To Return

The Sayreville, NJ high school football program will return in 2015 after a self-imposed, panicky Reign of Error which probably helped detour -- and hopefully not ruin -- the college and even professional football dreams of some otherwise perfectly innocent young men.

As I chroniced on this website months ago, the locker-room assaults resulted in several arrests but also in the township school board's decision to suspend the program for the remainder of the 2014 season. 

In short, the response revealed several flaws typical in high-profile, high-publicity investigations and crisis management approaches.

1) Accountability matters, but only when the right people are held to account. 

1A) Nothing destroys the respect for authority and the law more efficiently than punishing the innocent along with the guilty. Suspending the entire program was a CYA move -- cover your ass -- by administrators worried about their jobs and legal liability, and those concerns clearly trumped, and led to reputations of some very innocent young men getting trampled and sullied by the hysterical response. Concern is warranted about those people who act, point fingers and ruin reputations without having the facts right, often without caring whether there are any facts, and without concern for the permanent reputational damage they can cause. 

2) Trying to appear to do the right thing, is not the same thing as actually trying to do the right thing.

3) Calling something an investigation does not make it an investigation. It may be a cover-up, under the clever guise of a legitimate, official-sounding action -- which, naturally, is the best way to convince most people of average intelligence and below average emotional intelligence that there is "nothing to see here, just move along."

4) Ignore the loudmouths who demand "answers" when they really mean they want their desired result. That might be vengeance, an exoneration in public of a guilty party, or whatever. Investigations are like souffles. Pressure ruins them. 

5) Publicity and professionalism rarely go hand in hand, particularly when legal issues are involved. These crises often reveal people as the amateurs they really are. 

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer. 

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