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So, this week Renee Gork, a sports reporter in Arkansas, was fired from her radio station for wearing a University of Florida hat into a press conference with Arkansas Football Head Coach (and former ASU quarterback coach) Bobby Petrino.

The day started innocently enough. It was raining and UF alum Gork claims she threw on her alma mater’s hat to stay dry. During the press conference, she had the opportunity to ask a few questions, which Petrino answered – and finished by saying he would never answer another question from a local reporter sporting a UF hat.

Gork laughed off what must have been an obvious joke.

Or so she thought.

After the press conference, a member of Arkansas’ sports information team escorted her away while letting her know Petrino was LIVID about the blatant disrespect – this was the SEC and UF was a major rival, after all.

Embarrassed, Gork claims her radio station told her not to make a big deal and they would have her back. After a call from Arkansas, however, she was fired.

Now, the sports fan in me who knows how crazy the SEC can be thinks she got what she deserved. If I ever saw a reporter wearing a USC or Michigan hat to a Notre Dame game, I would go ballistic too.

But take away someone’s ability to make a living over it? A woman with two young children? I think not – if only to escape what could become a PR nightmare.

Gork has started speaking out about the treatment and is getting some national attention (in fact, she was on the nationally syndicated Dan Patrick radio and television program this week as well as ESPN) – and while she made a mistake, she is a professional broadcaster and paints a very bad PR picture of Arkansas and her radio station.

If I was in charge of PR at either the station or the University, this would never have happened. In fact, I would make light of it by creating a press conference where Petrino go the chance to burn the hat in effigy or something – great photo opp!

But, alas, I am not.

Now that the firing has happened, both PR teams (at the station and University) have to be smart – what do you think they will do? What would you do?

Oh – and GO IRISH!

Abbie S. Fink
Abbie S. Fink
Vice President/General Manager Abbie has been doing public relations her whole life…from organizing a picket line in 6th grade to organizing client communications today. She’s passionate about a lot of things, you’ll see. Check out Abbie's full bio

2 Comments

  1. Mike says:

    What happend to freedom of expression? I can’t imagine that this is a legal fireable offense.

    Oh well, just another reason to cheers against the Razorbacks this season.

  2. Peter Faur says:

    The station and the university should put their heads together, give Renee a collection of Razorbacks clothing and paraphernalia, and have an event, or at least a photo op, in which Petrino presents the gifts to her. She apologizes, he apologizes, she gets her job back, and he sits still for an extended preseason interview with her.

    That’s assuming, of course, that everyone is willing to play ball. If not, the station should rehire and reassign her. It’s just not right that a source, no matter how powerful, can dictate who works for a media outlet.

    If she won’t come back (and she probably has new opportunities now!), the station needs to go over the ground rules with the next person assigned to the beat.

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