By Nancy Armour |
Roger Goodell is the master of double talk and untruths.
The NFL commissioner held his annual news conference at the Super Bowl on Wednesday, and there will be no bigger waste of time this week. Which is saying something, given the circus that “Media Night” has become.
Anyone hoping to get a straight answer out of Goodell on, well, anything, left sorely disappointed. He offered nothing to reassure fans that the critical no-call in the NFC Championship Game would not happen again, and made no apologies for taking 10 days to address the debacle publicly.
Pressed on the NFL’s deafening silence when New Orleans Saints fans were venting their rage in legal action and on billboards, Goodell said – with a straight face, mind you – that the league had “addressed this immediately after the game.” Sorry, talking to Saints coach Sean Payton and leaving him to appease the masses doesn’t cut it. Last time I checked, Payton’s title is coach not commissioner, and he’s not getting $32 million to be the face and voice of the NFL.
The NFL is closing in on $20 billion in revenue in large part because of its fans – think sponsors and TV networks would shell out the big bucks for a product nobody watches? Ask auto racing about that – and they deserve more than some canned answer Goodell could have given the night of the game.
Goodell also played dumb on all the musicians who want nothing to do with the NFL while Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed, saying there were plenty of acts that wanted in on the league’s party. Perhaps. Though I doubt anyone would argue Aerosmith is a bigger draw than, say, Rihanna these days.
And when Goodell was asked why Maroon 5 bailed on a news conference that every other halftime act has done, he tried to spin it as some stroke of social media innovation. Because news conferences are not ample fodder for Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter — you get the idea.
But most shameful was Goodell’s claim that Kaepernick would have a job if only a team thought he could help it win. As if there’s an endless supply of quarterbacks who took their team to a Super Bowl just hanging around, waiting to be signed. Or that Nathan Peterman, C.J. Beathard, Mark Sanchez or any of the other dozen-plus retreads who got jobs in the last two years are legitimately better options than a guy who is tied with Tom Brady for the second-lowest interception percentage in league history.
Like an offensive lineman protecting the quarterback, it is Goodell’s job to take the hits and ensure the NFL finishes the day without any mud and grass stains on its precious shield. But there’s a way to do it without insulting everyone’s intelligence, and Goodell can’t be bothered.
The Saints outrage aside, this was a tremendous year for the NFL. TV ratings rebounded; the next generation of stars emerged in Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff and Mitchell Trubisky, and there were riveting games every week of the season.
Even Thursday Night Football, which has been a dumpster fire the last few years, was compelling.
Yet in a span of about 45 minutes, Goodell managed to remind everyone of the league’s glaring weak spot: It cannot be trusted to do, or say, the right thing. It might not matter now, when the league is riding so high, but it’s hubris for the NFL to think it will always be the case.
No one expects complete transparency from Goodell. But a little sincerity, a little humility, a little accountability would go a long way in letting fans know they’re not being taken for granted.
Or, worse, taken for fools.
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.