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Eagles in PR Minefield over Facebook Firing

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Update: Former Philadelphia Eagles employee Dan Leone will be chatting on espn.com at 3:00pm EST on Thursday, March 12.

Former Philadelphia Eagles employee Dan Leone grew up just down the street from Veterans Stadium, and has been a die-hard fan his entire life. When the Eagles built Lincoln Financial Field Leone figured he’d fill out an application and see if he could land a gig with his favorite team.

Fast forward 6 years and Leone is the west gate chief on game days, that is up until last week when the team let 13-year veteran, and fan-favorite Brian Dawkins sign with the Denver Broncos. What does Dawkins have to do with this? Well, Leone, like many Eagles fans, was furious Dawkins was leaving and posted on his Facebook page, “Dan is [expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver…Damn Eagles R Retarded!!”

The Eagles subsequently fired Leone. Should Leone have better judgment, yes. Was his Facebook status update inappropriate for an employee? Of course. But, the Eagles going as far as firing him brings up a host of questions from a PR and really a business perspective in general.

Christy Hammond at Sportsprblog.com brings up a great point. In this day and age every company should supply their employees with social media policies. Many companies are behind the curve on this, but as sites like Facebook and especially Twitter are exploding, more and more people are sharing their thoughts on-line, and companies need to decide what is and isn’t acceptable. That also means employees need to be extra vigilant in what they’re posting.

But, that doesn’t mean that this unfortunate situation rests solely on Leone’s shoulders. The Eagles took a lapse in judgment from an employee and turned it into PR nightmare. I don’t know how many “Facebook friends” Leone has, but usually it’s in the range of 100-200. So the Eagles fired a passionate employee over an inappropriate post that maybe 200 people saw.

In turn they ensured millions more now know about the comment. The story, and Leone’s comment, have now been all over the Philadelphia media, ESPN and almost every major sports media outlet across the country.

An even larger issue is whether firing an employee over a Facebook post is a wise PR move considering the current economic conditions. People are losing jobs left and right, and Leone was just fired for his Facebook status! Will the Eagles see any backlash for being insensitive during these time? Maybe something they should have thought about before pulling the trigger on this decision.

So, my question to you, did the Eagles make a mountain out of a mole hill? And, do companies in the current economic climate need to be more careful from a PR perspective for the reasons they let employees go?

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Written by Brian Gleason

March 11, 2009 at 11:35 pm

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