Faced with the crisis of having one of its (former) players behind bars on murder charges, the New England Patriots have displayed a desire to call the right PR plays.
The NFL team quickly released tight end Aaron Hernandez from its roster last month on the same day he was taken into custody in the investigation of a homicide. The Patriots’ quick action indicates that the organization has a well-prepared crisis PR strategy in place. Its execution has been reflected in bold and rapid steps to disassociate the team from Hernandez and his alleged actions.
By moving decisively, and by quickly releasing Hernandez, the Patriots are attempting to be proactive, rather than reacting to the negative attention they would have received if Hernandez were still one of their players.
Now, in a canny attempt to get Hernandez jerseys off the street, the Patriots are offering fans a chance for a free trade-in that will allow fans to exchange jerseys with the player’s name on the back for those of any other athlete on the team.
“We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys, but may not understand why parents don’t want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore,” said Patriots spokesperson Stacey James. “We hope this opportunity to exchange those jerseys at the Patriots ProShop for another player’s jersey will be well-received by parents.”
Obviously, the Patriots will not be able to make all Hernandez jerseys disappear. Some people are even paying more than one thousand dollars online to snap up the unusual collectibles. However, this savvy PR step allows the team to present a “free” offering to their fans, while at the same time further reducing their connection to the accused murder suspect. Clever play.