Much to the collective disgust of Pittsburgh animal lovers, the Steelers signed back-up quarterback Michael Vick to a one-year contract on August 25, 2015. In 2007, the NFL free agent pled guilty and served a 21 month jail sentence for felony animal cruelty charges stemming from evidence he sanctioned a dog-fighting ring.
Ironically, Vick’s big transition came right on the cusp of National Dog Day (August 26). The major signing resulted in a deluge of bad publicity, particularly for an organization that once prided itself on playing a positive role in the community.
Steelers ownership finds itself in an unenviable position — trying to strike a delicate balance between right and wrong, winning and losing. And while it’s difficult to justify attaching jumper cables to a mangled, defenseless animal or submerging a battered dog in a shallow bathtub, I do sympathize with the plight of Art Rooney II. There’s a lot of money on the line. Despite the altruistic goodwill professed by Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL teams and billionaire ownership are predominately concerned with profit, future revenue streams and winning at any cost. Morality tends to take a backseat.
As a lifelong Steelers fan, I have devised a simple solution to what will likely be an ongoing public relations relations nightmare a/k/a the Michael Vick era.
The Pittsburgh Steelers can be the first NFL organization to explicitly warn fans that… LEGITIMATE emergency stadium evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their personal cell phones.
With 50,000 – 100,000 active wireless devices in every NFL stadium, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that if a scenario like this were to unfold… it’s a malicious hoax designed to create an “artificially generate stampede.” This isn’t rocket science. It’s merely the modern, technological version of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.
Incident command would NEVER order an emergency stadium evacuation through mass cellular transmissions. Not only would it be impossibly ineffective, it’s just not how it’s done. The overriding mission is to present a clear, straightforward, unified, all-encompassing directive. When dealing with large crowds confined by concrete and steel, this cannot logically be achieved through text messaging or bulk alerts. A real-world stadium evacuation is accomplished by using the public address system in tandem with the video monitors.
Just ask Jimmy Sacco, director of game day operations for Heinz Field. Unfortunately, he’s not allowed to address stadium safety issues with the general public. Even worse, when I tried to broach this subject on the official Steelers facebook page, I was permanently blocked in mid-August of 2015.
But back to the issue at hand — solving the Steelers public relations fiasco in the wake of signing convicted felon Michael Vick.
Currently, none of the 32 NFL organizations are willing to tackle what is in essence an asymmetric national security issue. The Steelers could demonstrate a higher threshold of concern for fan safety than their 31 counterparts… if they take a proactive stance. Or they can deliberately ignore the existing problem and continue to do nothing… just like everyone else.
Regardless of whether an artificially generated stampede directly impacts the NFL, there is a discernible inevitability in play. One of these days something like this will be attempted. So will Heinz Field management explicitly tell fans the truth about emergency evacuation protocol? Of course not. But should they? Of course. A simple gesture like that could go a long way toward proving the organization cares about the physical safety of their fans. Such an act would likely help rehabilitate the Steelers brand. And It would also serve as a newsworthy precedent in the history of professional sports, easily overshadowing the acquisition of a notorious dog killer.
Sounds like a novel idea and a forward thinking plan. Regrettably, Steelers ownership and the NFL at-large will only take action in the aftermath of a hypothetical tragedy. As is customary with advancements in the societal evolution of humanity, people usually must die before the “powers-that-be” are willing to be proactive.
Of course, if the Steelers win the Super Bowl, all of my concerns will be rendered irrelevant. After all, why would anyone care about such a trivial matter? Instead of hijacked airplanes crashing into buildings, it’s just a bunch of confused human beings crashing into each other. And stadium stampedes could never happen in the United States. They only occur on the lesser evolved continents… like Africa, Asia, South America and Europe.
No big deal. It’s just a potential black swan scenario reminiscent of something that happened on September 11, 2001.
So regardless of your opinion of Michael Vick or the Pittsburgh Steelers, feel free to share this article. Believe it or not, freedom of speech is important. It even takes precedence over winning the Super Bowl.