Now that the Super Bowl is behind us, and we have the time to catch our collective breaths, it's a wonder how so many people still care about the NFL given the royal mess that it has made of itself this year. Sure, there is DeflateGate which, regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the mere fact that these kind of shenanigans could have ever occurred points to the league's negligence in protecting the integrity of the game. After all, can't the league secure the balls after the referee checks them for compliance?. But, game time ball pressure is the least of the NFL's problems.

After all, this year will be remembered as one that featured players knocking their girlfriends unconscious (on tape, no less), while others are found guilty of taking a switch to their kids, and, let's not forget all of the police incidences due of late night carousing and all of the suspensions for illicit drug use. NFL player behavior was so bad, in fact, that the Associated Press awarded it the most important sports story in 2014.

So, what is the NFL doing about all of this?

If you tuned into the game yesterday, you would have seen the league's attempt to get ahead of it all of this with its self-produced public service announcement on ending domestic abuse done in conjunction with non-profit organization dedicated to the subject (it complements the other PSAs that were featured during NFL games earlier in the season).

The Super Bowl piece ends with the haunting words: "When it's hard to talk, it's up to us to listen." Wow, powerful stuff! But, it seems to be too little, too late.

What can be learned from the NFL's PR nightmare? Here are some ideas:

  • Be deliberate, if you want to change your organizational culture. You can't just "kind of" want to change. You have to be focused and dedicated to instituting a new way of "thinking and doing"--much like an new NFL coach does when he sets out to put in a new system in place for his team.
  • Set expectations immediately upon on-boarding new staff. Be sure that every employee knows what's expected of them right form the start, including desired behavior on and off of work. So, ensure that your organization has on-boarding program and that it includes segments aimed at setting behavioral expectations for each staff member.
  • Hold your "teams" accountable for outcomes. When the preferred culture is established, new norms will be set. Once the norms are set, your work teams will do the policing. If the NFL held its teams accountable for the behavior of their players, I'm sure there would be a whole lot less roguish behavior making the news every week--players on the teams would be helping their teammates stay on the straight and narrow.
  • Back up what you say swiftly and firmly. Had the NFL introduced a rule that said that even the accusation of a prohibited behavior is grounds for suspension until the facts are known, it would've reduced much of the embarrassment that it suffered earlier in the year.
  • Don't take your customers for granted, they may leave in revolt. I know that it may be difficult for the most NFL owners to fathom the possibility, but, it is possible that the bad behavior will reach a point where fans stop going to games and spending dollars on swag. Don't believe it? Have you seen many people wearing their Ray Rice jerseys around town this year (he was one of the players suspended for domestic abuse in 2014)?

To close, I'm happy that this NFL season is over. I need a break from all of the nonsense that I've been asked to endure as a fan this year. I hope that the league takes the time to get its act together in the off-season and begins the hard work of putting into motion all the initiatives required to change the culture of the NFL because as their latest ad suggests--"when it's hard to talk it's up to 'them' to listen."