Recovering From the Houston Astros’ Sign-Stealing Scandal: A Case Study on Protecting a Professional Sport Organization’s Reputation Through Crisis Communication

in Case Studies in Sport Management
View More View Less
  • 1 Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Restricted access

Purchase case

USD  $9.95

Student 1 year online subscription

USD  $49.00

1 year online subscription

USD  $65.00

Student 2 year online subscription

USD  $93.00

2 year online subscription

USD  $124.00

In early 2020, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, announced the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal after months of investigation. It was one of the biggest scandals in baseball since the steroid era. After the fallout of this scandal, Major League Baseball’s reputation has suffered as stakeholders have increasingly lost faith in the organization’s ability to function ethically. This case study focuses on Manfred’s newly appointed Chief Communications Officer, Bhavna Krishnamurthy, who is tasked with repairing the organization’s reputation. The case presents a real-life incident as a backdrop to discuss crisis communication, particularly from a North American professional sport organization perspective.

Supplementary Materials

    • Teaching Note (PDF 163 KB)
  • Anderson, R., & Axisa, M. (2020, January 18). Astros sign-stealing scandal: What to know about MLB’s penalties against Houston. CBS Sports. https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/astros-sign-stealing-scandal-what-to-know-about-mlbs-penalties-against-houston/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Associated Press. (2020, February 17). Mike Trout on Astros scandal: ‘I don’t agree with the punishments.’ Sportsnet. https://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/mike-trout-astros-scandal-lost-respect-guys/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Baccellieri, E. (2020, February 13). Breaking Down the Astros’ Latest Public Relations Meltdown. Sports Illustrated. https://www.si.com/mlb/2020/02/13/houston-astros-public-relations-sign-stealing

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Barrett, S. (2005). Spokespersons and message control: How the CDC lost credibility during the Anthrax crisis. Qualitative Research Reports in Communication, 6(1), 5968.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Baseball Reference. (2020, May 23). Black Sox Scandal. Baseball Reference. https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Black_Sox_Scandal

  • Bengel, C. (2020, February 17). Astros season ticket holder files lawsuit against team in wake of cheating scandal. CBS Sports. https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/astros-season-ticket-holder-files-lawsuit-against-team-in-wake-of-cheating-scandal/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Benoit, W.L. (1995). Accounts, excuses, apologies: A theory of image restoration strategies (2nd ed.). State University of New York Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Benoit, W.L. (2015). Accounts, excuses, and apologies: Image repair theory and research. State University of New York Press.

  • Bland, M. (1998). Communicating out of a crisis. Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Blaney, J.R., Lippert, L.R., & Smith, S.J. (2012). Repairing the athlete’s image: Studies in sports image restoration. Lexington Books.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bogage, J. (2020, February 19). What MLB players are saying about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal and apology. The Washingtonpost Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/02/18/mlb-players-on-astros-cheating-apology/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Choi, J. (2012). A content analysis of BP’s press releases dealing with crisis. Public Relations Review, 38(2012), 422429.

  • Choi, J., & Lee, S. (2017). Managing a crisis: A framing analysis of press releases dealing with the Fukushima nuclear power station crisis. Public Relations Review, 43(5), 10161024.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Claeys, A.-S., & Cauberghe, V. (2014). Keeping control: The importance of nonverbal expressions of power by organizational spokespersons in times of crisis. Journal of Communication, 64(6), 11601180.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Coombs, W.T. (2007). Protecting organization reputations during a crisis: The development and application of situational crisis communication theory. Corporate Reputation Review, 10(3), 163176.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ESPN. (2020a, February 18). Astros cheating scandal: MLB players weigh in on sign stealing. ESPN. https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28708511/astros-cheating-scandal-mlb-players-weigh-sign-stealing

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ESPN. (2020b, February 22). Fans heckling Astros at spring opener get signs confiscated. ESPN. https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28760766/fans-heckling-astros-spring-opener-get-signs-confiscated

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Holladay, S.J. (2009). Crisis communication strategies in the media coverage of chemical accidents. Journal of Public Relations Research, 21(2), 208217.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lee, J., Kim, S., & Wertz, E.K. (2014). How spokesperson rank and selected media channels impact perceptions in crisis communication. Public Relations Journal, 8(2), 221.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mazza, E. (2020, February 19). ‘Strip the title’: Angry players, fans demand MLB action against cheating Houston astros. HuffPost. https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/astros-strip-title-players-fans-demand_n_5e4cb23fc5b6eb8e95b4a80e?ri18n=true

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McCann, M. (2020, February 19). A union divided: Astros cheating scandal rocks MLB players association. Sports Illustrated. https://www.si.com/mlb/2020/02/18/houston-astros-cheating-scandal-mlbpa

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MLBPA. (2016). 2017–2021 basic agreement.

  • MLBPA. (2019). FAQ. Major League Baseball Players Association. https://www.mlbplayers.com/faq

  • Morton, L., & Ramsey, S. (1994). A benchmark study of the PR news wire. Public Relations Review, 20(2), 171182.

  • Ndlela, M.N. (2018). Crisis communication: A stakeholder approach. Palgrave MacMillan.

  • Park, H. (2017). Exploring effective crisis response strategies. Public Relations Review, 43(1), 190192.

  • Pearson, C.M., & Clair, J.A. (1998). Reframing crisis management. The Academy of Management Review, 23(1), 5976.

  • Seeger, M.W., Sellnow, T.L., & Ulmer, R.R. (2003). Communication and organizational crisis. Praeger.

  • Smith, R. (2013). Public relations: The basics. Routledge.

  • Stoldt, G.C., Dittmore, S.W., Mike Ross. , & Branvold, S.E. (2020). Sport public relations. Human Kinetics.

  • Traina, J. (2020, Feburary 27). Twitter account called ‘2020 astros shame tour’ is here for all the houston bashing: Traina thoughts. Sports Illustrated. https://www.si.com/extra-mustard/2020/02/27/astros-cheating-leads-to-asterisk-tour-twitter-account

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ulmer, R.R. (2001). Effective crisis management through established stakeholder relationships: Malden mills as a case study. Management Communication Quarterly, 14(4), 90615.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Veil, S.R., Buehner, T., & Palenchar, M.J. (2011). A work-in-process literature review: Incorporating social media in risk and crisis communication. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 19, 110122.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Venook, J. (2020, January 19). The Astros’ cheating scandal rewrites a decade of baseball history. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/01/the-astros-scandal-rewrites-a-decade-of-mlb-history/605185/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Walsh, Z.J. (2005). Image restoration and the “Black Sox” scandal of 1919: corrective action as an ideal image restoration model for professional baseball. Honors Thesis, 232.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 556 556 229
Full Text Views 23 23 9
PDF Downloads 34 34 12