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Protecting the NFL Players in a Crisis

Doug Simon (@DSSimonDoug), CEO of D S Simon Media spoke with George Atallah (@GeorgeAtallah), Assistant Executive Director & External Affairs for NFL Players Association at the PR News Media Relations Conference in Washington, D.C., about leading your organization’s messaging in a crisis.

In today’s vlog post, Doug spoke with George Atallah, Assistant Executive Director & External Affairs for NFL Players Association, about his role in communications for the NFL Players Association. He discussed the issue of concussions and the challenges faced by labor union leadership, workplace safety, post career health benefits and more.

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Video Transcript:

Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Simon from DS Simon Media. I’m here at the PR News’ Social Media Conference with George Atallah from the NFL Players Association, who just gave a presentation about crisis communications. Thanks so much for being with us.

George: Thanks for having me.

D: Great. Why don’t you share a little bit about what your role is at the NFL Players Association. What is it you’re communicating?

G: Yeah, my role is primarily to protect and promote the NFLPA, our programs and services, and talk about what our players are doing on a daily basis. Obviously, a large part of that has to do with dealing with crises that may come up in any given news cycle. And how we manage through that is a responsibility that I’m proud to have.

D: Great. Now, I saw the movie Concussion. We actually got to work on a project for the College of American Pathologists. And if being a Jet fan wasn’t making it hard enough for me to stick with the NFL this year– but come on, we’ll be back some day– that made it really tough– an obviously huge issue for players. What are some of the misconceptions the public has? And how do you try and navigate that?

G: It’s a challenge, because the concussion issue amongst NFL players is real. It is something that we have to address. But it’s not necessarily an epidemic, as has been presented by a lot of folks. Certainly, you want to take those types of issues seriously.

G: But the challenge that we have as communicators, frankly, is to ensure that it’s getting the proper serious level of attention that it deserves, while also not creating an unnecessary panic or hysteria amongst our membership. So that’s something that we sort of have to walk the fine line with and calibrate. And really, as long as it’s based in a factual narrative, that’s sort of the space that we want to stay in.

D: Now, you have an interesting positioning, in that, obviously, the members of your union are famous household names, loved, revered. They can send out a tweet, and everyone knows about it. Yet, overall, the labor movement itself is facing significant challenges. How is it important that you work to build sort of the feeling of what labor unions are providing and their importance to what your goals and objectives are? And how do you do it?

G: Yeah, well, we are part of the labor union movement. And our union has been around for 60 years now. We are a member of the AFL-CIO. We have a seat on the executive council. So the strife of workers in all industries and all unions are the same ones that we have– workplace safety, post-career health care, pensions, benefits.

G: All of the things that you would expect that labor unions have at the top of their agenda, those are the same issues that we have at the top of our agenda. And we don’t let the individual salaries or success of our individual members dictate what the overall collective goal is of what we’re trying to accomplish.

D: Awesome. Thanks so much for your information, very interesting.

G: Thank you very much.