Thursday, July 15, 2010

MLB’s Unforeseen All-Star Distractions

Tuesday, the National League won the Major League Baseball All-Star game for the first time since 1993.

But you easily might have missed that detail, as the showcase game was forced to compete for attention against, respectively, an unforeseen event and unrelated controversy:

n The death of larger-than-life Yankees owner George Steinbrenner

n A possible player boycott of next year’s All-Star game in Phoenix, AZ

On the first count, MLB and Fox, which broadcast the game, seized the opportunity to deliver a variety of glowing tributes to The Boss, a man who hasn’t always been good publicity for the game, but has always made a big business and marketing impact, since the 1970s.

As for the other issue, MLB finds itself in a tough public relations spot. Many Latin American ballplayers are voicing concerns about playing the midsummer classic next year in Arizona, in light of that state’s controversial new immigration enforcement law.

Polls show plenty of public support for the measure. And the 2011 All-Star event is probably well into the planning at this point. So ditching the desert location doesn’t appear likely, controversy or no.

Even so, Bud Selig and the MLB owners can’t simply disregard the views of their many Latin American employees, especially as a new collective bargaining agreement will be needed by the end of next year.

MLB couldn’t have seen these developments coming from too far away, and it’s hard to say how it will play out. So stay tuned …

And let it be a reminder that, from a public relations perspective, you’ve got to be prepared to roll with whatever may come. Are you ready?

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