Sports Law • Risk Management

November 28, 2010: Obama Administration Risk Management Strategies

Following a rough post-Thanksgiving basketball game on Friday, President Obama got a busted lip according to Friday’s article by the New York Times. Obama took an elbow to the mouth, which resulted in him needing 12 stitches to mend the gash. Accordingly, the White House had to respond to the incident much in the same way a sports organization should respond to an incident.

Have on-site medical care. Obama was whisked away to an on-site doctor’s office located in the White House. The White House has its own medical unit that responded to treat the President. This is a reminder to sports organizations that treating an injury quickly is important. When possible have an on-site medical team who are equipped with at least basic medical supplies.

Develop a prepared statement to the press. The Obama administration has staff that coordinates press releases and whose job it is to minimize media backlash. The White House released a statement with just the bare facts but withheld the name of the person who unintentionally elbowed the President. Similarly, a sports organization should quickly release a coordinated statement to the media following an incident. It is best to have one person act as the liaison between the media. This liaison should give only minimal facts, but withhold any information, like names, that might need to be protected immediately following an incident. All other parties should be instructed to direct inquiries to the liaison. Essentially, it is best to quickly acknowledge an incident, but only after developing a prepared statement to be released to the media.

Do not accept blame or apologize. Once it was leaked who elbowed the President, that individual made his own public statement. In his statement, he spoke positively of Obama’s character but did not apologize for his actions. By making a positive comment about the President and by turning the focus towards the President and away from himself, he made a negative into a positive and took the attention off of himself and his actions. This is also a good lesson for sports organizations when responding to an incident. If you make any apologies or accept blame, then this may be viewed as an admission of liability. Be careful in what is said to those involved in the incident, those investigating the incident, and the media. Again it is best to have a prepared statement and stick to the script or else you may be at the losing end of a negligence suit.

The White House may be the best at knowing how to properly respond to incidents because of the importance in protecting the President from harm. Since the White House is so skilled at employing risk management strategies, it can be a good idea for a sports organization to model risk management techniques used by the White House. Ultimately these lessons are, when possible, to have on-site medical care, to develop a prepared statement for the press and do not accept blame or apologize for an incident.