The Tampa Bay Buccaneers public relations staff, lauded for dealings with the media during a Super Bowl season with the addition of high-profile free agents including quarterback Tom Brady, has been selected as the 2021 Pete Rozelle Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
The Buccaneers PR staff, the 32nd Rozelle Award winner, earned the award for the third time in franchise history (1998 and 2003).
The other 2021 nominees for the Rozelle Award were the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Tennessee Titans.
The Rozelle Award is given to the NFL club public relations staff that consistently strives for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media. The award is named for Rozelle, NFL commissioner from 1960-89, who started his distinguished career in sports PR roles as a student at both Compton (Calif.) Junior College and the University of San Francisco. After two more years as USF’s assistant athletic director after graduation, he broke into the NFL as the PR director of the Los Angeles Rams from 1952-55. Rozelle used his PR principles as commissioner to build relationships with the media during a period of unprecedented growth and challenge for the league.
During the 2020 season, the Buccaneers’ PR staff consisted of Nelson Luis (vice president of communications), Michael Pehanich (director of communications), Chris King (senior manager of communications), Andrew Holman (communications coordinator) and Danielle Burns (communications coordinator). The Buccaneers were also assisted by intern Jake Spitz.
“Those of us who cover this team daily have known for years what a great communications staff this is. Tom Brady’s arrival and a Super Bowl run merely put them on a bigger stage, and they shined under the most challenging circumstances of a pandemic,” said Jenna Laine, Buccaneers beat reporter for ESPN.com. “When not all questions could be answered in Zoom calls or a crucial follow-up was needed, they’d hustle to reach that player or coach because they understood the importance of clarity. If a player or coach couldn’t be made available for a Zoom call — or in the case of one particular player, the questions felt too personal to be asked in that setting — every effort was made to get one-on-one access, because they understood the importance of voices in our storytelling and treating those we cover with respect.
“If there was ever conflict, it was addressed and resolved quickly. Even on a personal level, anytime any of us have had an important milestone in our lives, a tragic event or an illness, they expressed genuine care and concern, because they know what it means to put people first. My first day back after losing my beloved cat, a card was on my desk, waiting for me. That’s going the extra mile. I’m genuinely happy for Nelson Luis, Michael Pehanich, Chris King, Andrew Holman, Danielle Burns and the organization. This honor is well-deserved.”
ABOUT THE PFWA: In its 58th season in 2021, the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA) is the official voice of pro football writers, promoting and fighting for access to NFL personnel to best serve the public. The PFWA is made up of accredited writers who cover the NFL and the 32 teams daily. Lindsay Jones of The Athletic is the PFWA president for the 2021-22 seasons and the organization’s 30th president. Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated is the PFWA’s first vice-president, Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News is the second vice-president and Mike Sando of The Athletic is the secretary-treasurer. At-large board members include USA Today’s Mike Jones, ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, The Athletic’s Dan Pompei and ProFootballTalk.com’s Charean Williams. Follow the PFWA at ProFootballWriters.org and on Twitter at @PFWAwriters
PETE ROZELLE AWARD WINNERS (To the club public relations department that consistently strives for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media) Year indicates when award was presented for previous season: 1990 – Denver Broncos; 1991 – Pittsburgh Steelers; 1992 – Seattle Seahawks; 1993 – Miami Dolphins; 1994 – Houston Oilers; 1995 – New York Giants; 1996 – Indianapolis Colts; 1997 – St. Louis Rams; 1998 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 1999 – Miami Dolphins; 2000 – Tennessee Titans; 2001 – New York Giants; 2002 – Philadelphia Eagles; 2003 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 2004 – Houston Texans; 2005 – Philadelphia Eagles; 2006 – Cincinnati Bengals; 2007 – Houston Texans; 2008 – Seattle Seahawks; 2009 – Arizona Cardinals; 2010 – Houston Texans; 2011 – Baltimore Ravens; 2012 – Houston Texans; 2013 – Baltimore Ravens; 2014 – Denver Broncos; 2015 – Pittsburgh Steelers; 2016 – Denver Broncos; 2017 – Baltimore Ravens & Houston Texans; 2018 – Minnesota Vikings; 2019 – Los Angeles Rams; 2020 – Indianapolis Colts; 2021 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers