Publication Date

Summer 2015

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Angela Jerome (Director), Holly Payne, Helen Sterk

Degree Program

Department of Communication

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Using typologies by Benoit (1995), Seeger (2006), and Heath (2006) this study argues that when an organization encounters multiple complications (e.g., perceived guilt, magnitude of harm, nature of the victims, etc.) compounding a crisis situation, that the organization’s best course of action is to employ atonement rhetoric. Second, this study also argues for the inclusion of a new best practice in crisis communication, which highlights the importance of organizations to recognize the impact visual evidence, especially video footage, has on complicating crisis response while also increasing demand for an appropriate and timely response. To do this the study uses the above typologies as well as Koesten and Rowland (2004) to carry out a rhetorical analysis of the NFL’s response to the Ray Rice crisis. This study finds that the NFL’s crisis response through the first three phases, though using nearly all of Benoit’s (1995) strategies, fails to meet all of Seeger’s (2006) and Heath’s (2006) best practices. It is only through meeting the requirements for atonement set out by Koesten and Rowland (2004) that the NFL meets the recommended best practices and achieves resolution from this crisis.


Communication | Organizational Communication | Speech and Rhetorical Studies