Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NASCAR Is Inviting A Lawsuit

Let’s give Toyota a rest today and pick on NASCAR. If you’re not a stock car racing fan, NASCAR is the sanctioning body for the largest automobile racing league in the United States.

Because of the economy and some rules changes, including major changes in the design and limits on the race cars themselves, attendance and profits were down last year.

The NASCAR management team was criticized by the fans and teams for “ruining” the racing and the family company that runs NASCAR didn’t make as much money last year.

So, before this season began at Daytona in mid-February, the President of NASCAR announced the loosening of some of the rules. One of those rules changes seemed to clear the way for “drivers to be drivers” as one sports writer reported.

In the past couple of years NASCAR said it would not tolerate drivers running into each other on purpose and coupled with other changes, the racing was not as “exciting” as it had been in the past.

With the relaxed rules and the apparent blessing of NASCAR officials, two drivers got mad at each other last Sunday during a race in Atlanta. One young driver bumped a veteran driver and put him into the wall, ending the older driver’s chances of winning.

It took more than 100 laps to repair his car, and without any chance of accomplishing anything else, Carl Edwards went back onto the track with the obvious intent of “getting even.” It took him a lap to accomplish his goal, but he finally caught up with Brad Keselowski and ran into him at nearly 190 miles an hour, sending his car flipping into the wall.

No one got hurt, this time. But a year ago at Talladega, Keselowski put Edwards into the wall within sight of the finish line. Edwards was leading until he got booted. Keselowski won the race and seven spectators were injured by flying debris.

This is not a fight during a hockey game. If two players want to knock their teeth out, let them, as long as they keep it out of the spectator seats. It’s hard to keep the on-track fight on the track.

So what does this have to do with crisis management? A lot!

NASCAR has basically invited an aggressive plaintiff’s attorney to file a lawsuit against the sanctioning body and one or more track owners, alleging they have made it unsafe for fans to enjoy their favorite sport.

If the case is filed in a court somewhere outside the Southeastern United States, NASCAR could lose, or at the very least, spend millions of dollars defending itself.

Many organizations make decisions every day that could invite consumer, investor, employee or regulator legal action. They make decisions without considering all of the legal and public relations issues. NASCAR is just the latest to do it so publicly.

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Good points, Larry. "Bad behavior" by drivers could also tarnish many of the corporate sponsorships. Of course, for some fans, driver aggression could lead to greater fan allegiance. Unpredictable as a wet track.