By Edward Miller
What do you do when a customer publicly embarrasses your company? It happened to Texas Tech University recently when one of its basketball fans was shoved by an opposing player near the end of the game. At first, it looked like the player was the sole villain. He had no business shoving a fan on the sidelines. Or did he? The player charged that the fan shouted a racial slur. Now the fan’s actions are in question.
The offending fan wasn’t just a casual spectator. He closely affiliated himself with the university by traveling across the country for home and away games all season long. If the allegation of a racial slur was true, the image of Texas Tech would suffer.
The incident was resolved within 24 hours. The Big 12 conference suspended the player for three games, the player apologized to the fan and his team, and fan, who had said something rather impolite but apparently not racially charged, apologized for his language and agreed not to attend any more games for the rest of the season. As a result, a sticky incident did not escalate into a nasty, name-calling public-relations crisis.
• Act quickly. The incident was all over ESPN before it was resolved. Had the university not responded effectively, the story (and potential damage) would have lingered indefinitely.
• Act decisively. Texas Tech immediately recognized the damage that could be done by an unrestrained fan and moved to limit further harm with apologies from all quarters. No forming of study committees; no “No comment.”
This is a good example of handling a crisis by stepping up to do the right thing right away.