Above all else, communication is the key to public relations. As PR practitioners, our job is to listen to our audiences and communicate with them. Businesspeople generally make decisions with the most economic sense, but incorporating public relations into their operations would certainly yield the optimal payoff, especially in the long-term. It is inconceivable that professional sports could exist without fans; yet, the fans suffer the most during bouts between owners and players. We can push any message we want, but actions speak louder than words. If there is no corresponding action for our messages, then our practice is all for naught.
Public relations practices are not entirely different from private relations practices. Generally speaking, we admire qualities like humility, diligence and patience; these qualities establish trust. Conversely, qualities like pride, sloth and wrath detract from that trust. We look for these qualities in public figures like we look for them in our everyday relationships. Furthermore, labor negotiations are akin to an argument between a mother and father. Communication between parents is key like communication between owners and players. Yet, as the argument drags on, it is only a matter of time before the fans, the proverbial children, see the contention. Does one side sacrifice its own happiness and well-being for the "good of the children," or does it compromise with its other half to reach a happy ending? Does one tell the entire truth of the situation, or does it omit enough truth to maintain optimism that there will be resolution? This thesis seeks to identify how the owners, the players and, most importantly, the fans can all be one happy family through the following steps:
1. Examine how the union and the league handled public relations efforts during the 1981 MLB strike, 1982 NFL strike, 1987 NFL lockout and 2003-04 NHL lockout, and how these efforts affected their positions at the bargaining table and their relationship with the fans,
2. Weigh the public relations risks and rewards of communications, business and legal operations,
3. Investigate what the players union can do to explain its side of the story--that the NFL is a tyrant forcing them to play under unfair conditions,
4. Outline what steps the NFL can take to protect its reputation from such attacks.