Fans, Outbreaks and Measles– Oh My!

The Moda Center seats a lot of people– just check out the view from the 300 section.

Funny story. My mom had tickets for the Portland Trail Blazers’ game on January 11, 2019, but for only the second time in the 21 years that my family has been quarter-season ticket holders, she forgot.

It may have been a blessing as someone at the game ended up having measles, exposing the 20,000 fans in attendance to the potentially-deadly illness.

Let’s take a look at how the Trail Blazers handled this situation. 

Blazers news releases from January 18 when the outbreak was announced to January 22. Photo credit: Trail Blazers

On its PR news website, the Trail Blazers stayed mum about the potential exposure. Although Multnomah County announced the potential exposure on January 18 in a press release, the Blazers chose not to release its own individual statement.

I find it surprising that the Blazers would fail to comment on this matter, because this is something that many families would be worried about. Children frequently attend Blazer games, and as an Oregonian, I can vouch that many parents are the kind of parents that want their children all-natural, aka no vaccinations.

Additionally, Multnomah County’s press release explicitly stated that the infected individual attended the Trail Blazers game. By naming the organization, I thought that they would surely release a statement, but it does not seem like they did.

On Instagram, the Blazers also neglected to tell fans about the exposure to measles.

Blazers’ Instagram posts from January 18- January 22. Again, there was no mention of the measles. Photo Credits: Trail Blazers

Here is a screen grab of the Blazers’ Instagram posts from January 18 when then outbreak was announced to January 20. None of these posts contain any information about the measles.

Again, this was surprising to me but not as surprising as the lack of press release.

From these investigations, one thing became very clear. The Trail Blazers said nothing about the measles outbreak.

So, who else close to the organization might have said something? I thought that the Moda Center and surrounding Rose Quarter area made the most sense.

The Moda Center and Rose Quarter also made no statement. Photo Credit: Moda Center

However, I was again surprised to find out that the arena itself made no statement about the measles outbreak on its news website.

Needless to say these discoveries left me a little alarmed. What else might the Blazers and the Rose Quarter be hiding? A large majority of the news articles on both of the websites are positive. Are organizations like this not willing to acknowledge some of the negative press?

Although the lack of a statement did not seem to affect attendance, I am not sure that saying nothing is the way to go if these events occur in the future. These outbreaks will likely continue to occur, just look at the measles outbreak from last week in Los Angeles.

Moving forward, I think that PR practitioners need to take steps to not only inform fans about potential exposures but also encourage fans to get immunizations. While the Blazers slipped by, this should not be the practiced response. 

What do you think NBA teams and other professional sports teams should do in response to potential outbreaks? Are you ok with the Blazers’ response? Let me know in the comments below. 


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