5 PR lessons we can learn from Wells Report on Deflategate

5 PR lessons we can learn from Wells Report on Deflategate

This month, the Wells Report on the “Deflategate” incident that occurred earlier this year was released to the public. The intent of this 243 page report was to present all the evidence surrounding the deflation of Patriot footballs before their game with the Colts. Mixed reactions followed the release of the report, but some public relations lessons were also revealed.


1. Be timely with your statement. When releasing a statement or a report on an incident, make sure it’s done while the topic is still relevant. The Wells Report would have been more relevant had it been released before the Super Bowl, yet its release date was pushed back well into the off-season.


2. Use only the fact. In commenting on the facts surrounding an incident, only use what is known to be true. In the Wells Report, it was stated that the referee used a gauge that generates lower measurements to check the footballs’ PSI. The referee couldn’t remember which gauge he used, discounting that support.


Walt Anderson making a call during an NFL game in his referee uniform.

Referee Walt Anderson could not recollect which type of gauge he used to measured the PSI of game used footballs. (nbcphiladelphia.com)

3. Use recent evidence. Evidence released to the public should be up-to-date and meaningful enough to support one’s point. Equipment manager Jim McNally was mentioned in the report having called himself the “deflator” via text message, which became evidence against the Patriots. This text was sent in May, making it irrelevant to the event that occurred many months later.



4. Look at every aspect. Avoid giving misinformation by discussing other possible angles, rather than just looking at one single theory. The report failed to discuss other possible reasons the deflation of the footballs, such as low temperatures.


Close up picture of a person texting on a QWERTY keyboard mobile device.

Texts are now discoverable evidence and can be used to support or dispute a claim. (pandodaily.files.wordpress.com)

5. Give context. Look for context when using someone’s words to avoid misrepresenting what was originally said. McNally was able to play on words by calling himself the “deflator,” but he used it in the context of losing weight. It could be seen as relevant to deflating footballs if taken into context with the Wells Report.


From the Wells Report’s mistakes, insight is given on what not to do when dealing with a public relations issue. How information and what kind of information is present to the public determines the reaction.


Where there other issues with the Wells Report? Why was the Patriots punishment so strong? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.

Devon Karbowski

Devon Karbowski graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2015. He received a BA in Writing Studies with an emphasis in Professional Writing and a minor in Philosophy. Currently, he is using his degree to pursue a career in freelance writing, proposal writing and social media management. The focal point of his MUI PR articles will involve public relations related topics.

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