The New England Patriots beat the New York Giants last night, making the Patriots the first team in 35 years to go through the regular season undefeated. What’s that have to do with public relations?
Well, the Patriots had a perfect season. Not coach Bill Belichick. William C. Rhoden in today’s New York Times provides the overview and context in his column “Players’ Mark Spotless, Not Coach’s.”
Seems the Patriots and Belichick were caught cheating earlier in the season when they used video cameras to help get an edge in a victory over the New York Jets. That raises issues about character – and ethics — involving management and others that we spend considerable time talking about in our mass communication ethics classes at Kent State. In this regard, Belichick functions very much like a CEO. Why shouldn’t the same standards apply?
We talked about the Belichick misstep in class, and in what was really a lively discussion, all agreed that it wasn’t the right thing to do. No question about it. And it illustrates why organizations get into trouble. Wasn’t there anyone on Belichick’s staff who agreed with my students that this was the wrong, the unethical, thing to do? Or did they just look the other way? Enron, on a smaller, certainly much more insignificant scale, anyone?
David Halberstam wrote an interesting and informative book about Belichick, The Education of a Coach. Halberstam forms a profile of Belichick as an innovative, hardworking coach, with strong family values. Belichick also comes off as someone with a compelling will to win and succeed. (And this is an aside, but if you are interested in good writing – a journalist as historian – read almost anything by Halberstam.)
So if you want to learn more about Belichick, read Halberstam’s book. But if you want to see how ethics apply here – and in public relations and other areas – read a book by Rushworth M. Kidder, How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living. I use that book in my ethics class. And another book by Kidder, Moral Courage, is worth reading as well.
A perfect season? No. But a lesson in ethics that applies beyond the football stadium? Yes.