Last Sunday, the National Football League (NFL) removed a replacement referrer amid bias and reputation concerns. It was an outside source, ESPN, which informed the NFL about this probable conflict of interest. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported the NFL pulled replacement referee Brian Stropolo who was assigned to officiate the New Orleans-Carolina game because Stropolo’s Facebook page indicated he was a serious Saints fan.

According to Mortensen, Stropolo’s Facebook page had several pictures of Stropolo in Saints attire. Not wanting to risk the integrity of the NFL as an organization, risk the NFL’s reputation, or the New Orleans-Carolina game, the NFL moved swiftly to find a replacement for the Stropolo. Michael Signora, a NFL spokesperson, confirmed Stropolo “was replaced because of the information that surfaced disclosing that he is a Saints fan”.

According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, the NFL drove home the point that replacement officials are subject to the same background checks and ethical standards as the NFL’s locked out officials. A league executive conceded, at the very least, “an appearance of impropriety” warranted Sunday’s action.

Brian Stropolo’s Facebook page is no longer available.

Playing With Integrity

The Stropolo incident highlights why human resources professionals (and organizations in general) should add online reputation monitoring to their background check process so that they have an independent way to know if staff are active on social networks, and if they’re creating digital problems or attracting unwanted attention online.

We may never learn if this omission was an oversight or intentional from Stropolo. In the very least, the NFL should make take this opportunity to remind everyone in their network about their social media policy.

Game Changer

Sports fans are very social beings who enjoy first hand experiences and who share their experiences online. The NFL must be constantly on the lookout for ways this game changer could potentially help or harm the NFL, players, etc. The NFL could also learn to appreciate how digital risks can be better managed via online reputation monitoring and understand how social media has changed the way organizations connect and gather intelligence online.

Reasons why the NFL should look deeper and be certain Stropolo is an isolated incident:

  • The appearance of impropriety leads others to question the integrity of the individuals and organizations involved.
  • A change in public sentiment online or offline could signal the beginning of a brand and reputation decline.
  • Online risk is real. Online reputation management solution is an essential tool for capturing what occurs online.
  • What people say and how people behave online is something every organization should track to support risk management practices.

Staff Risks

Human Resource Professionals beware. The online conversations your staff participate in should be monitored by management as a way to minimize brand and reputation risk. To minimize risks, temporary staff must undergo thorough background checks comparable to that of full-time staff.

Ignoring the effect of social networking on brand, reputation and sales is a miscalculation – a risk that will violently shake the very core of your organization.

It’s up to human resources professionals to find ways to efficiently manage day-to-day staffing needs along with their temporary staffing needs and still be able to thoroughly check and secure everyone on staff to the best of their ability. Not only should all staff undergo the same background checks, they should all be expected to uphold the same professional norms, and conduct themselves with the same integrity expected of full time staff.

Consider reputation monitoring as an essential tool that helps to safeguard your brand and your organization. Monitoring your reputation online enables you to enhance operational efficiencies, enforce compliance policies, search effectively and preserve social media conversations on demand. Don’t drop the ball when it comes to your reputation.

Did the NFL drop the ball here?

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