Every industry needs Plan “B”. In this era, most major sport organizations, leagues and teams have crisis management and communications plans in place for specific crises, which they must execute quickly.
It shouldn’t be the second – or even third thought – when it comes to tragedies like the one that befell the Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense, a team decimated by a plane crash in Colombia that claimed 71 lives. But, eventually, the games will go on and professional sports leagues have had contingency plans in place for years.
Major League Baseball’s policy mandates a mourning period. The National Football League has one of the more detailed plans, broken up into “Near Disaster” and “Disaster” categories. The National Basketball Association calls for a disaster draft. “In this era, most major sport organizations, leagues and teams have crisis management and communications plans in place for specific crises, which they must execute quickly,” said Ted Kian, the Welch-Bridgewater Endowed Chair of Sports Media at Oklahoma State University. “You saw both quickly followed here when the South American football federation astutely suspended all other games and activities out of respect.”
Here’s how the other leagues handle such a disaster:
The NFL has had a disaster plan laid out for more than three decades. “We do have a long-standing plan in the event NFL players are lost in a common accident,” a league spokesman told USA TODAY Sports. According to ESPN, the league labels the loss fewer than 15 players killed a “Near Disaster”, which gives the impacted team the right to be the first to claim players off waivers for the remainder of the season. That team would continue the season. If the quarterback was among those lost, it would be allowed to select a third-stringer from another team.
The commissioner would decide whether a team would continue in a “Disaster” scenario where 15 or more players were killed. Along with the “Near Disaster” protocols if the team is able to finish the season, that team would get the first overall pick in the NFL Draft and there would be a dispersal draft where teams could protect as many as 32 players.