ESPN Report Reveals Roger Goodell Is Even More Of A Figurehead Owner Stooge Than We Thought
According to an article in the newest issue of ESPN The Magazine, Roger Goodell is nothing more than an overpaid, useless figurehead who does little more than whatever he's told by the pushiest owners in the league.
I'm editorializing a bit, but that's one of the main takeaways from Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr.'s report on how Stan Kroenke strong-armed the NFL into letting him move the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles. The article describes, through dozens of anonymous sources ranging from owners to staffers, the contentious, years-long process of deciding who would get to move back to the L.A. market out of the Rams, Chargers and Raiders.
It's a great read and worth your time, but all I can think about is how useless Goodell appears to be throughout the entire process, which ended in feelings of betrayal and disappointment for many. It sounds more like a high school debate club than billion-dollar entertainment business.
Just a few examples of Goodell standing by while deals are made without him (emphasis ours):
Nobody knew it at the time, but the league office had already lost control of the Los Angeles relocation process. Commissioner Roger Goodell's mishandling of the Ray Rice domestic violence discipline in the summer and autumn of 2014 distracted him from executing the league's longtime goal of returning to LA and severely weakened his standing in ownership circles. Meetings about LA that were scheduled for September were pushed to November. The distractions also created a power vacuum that Grubman [an NFL executive] -- and other owners -- eagerly filled.
So on Feb. 19, 2015, six weeks after Kroenke's Inglewood announcement, the Raiders and Chargers proposed their Carson project, a football-only venue, unlike the epicenter planned for Inglewood, and financed mostly by Goldman Sachs. Looking back now, some around the league wish that Goodell had locked the three owners in a room and forced them to cut a deal right then, avoiding the battles and hurt feelings that would unfold. Instead, Goodell allowed the NFL's messy form of democracy to run its course, appearing strangely detached in meetings. He said almost nothing while Grubman, who, like Goodell, declined to comment for this story, appeared to be too close to Kroenke; some involved in the process said they had expected Grubman to be strictly neutral. The disjointed process was leading to discontent among owners, at a time when, with football's long-term future a constant topic of debate, solidarity was needed.
The spectacle of NFL leaders undercutting St. Louis' attempt to keep the Rams, and the uncertainty in San Diego and Oakland, was becoming another public-relations disaster. Goodell privately expressed frustration about all three owners -- if they were elite, they wouldn't be trying to relocate in the first place, he told a friend -- but in the end, the commissioner supported their efforts to leave.
The membership essentially had ordered Spanos to work out a deal with Kroenke, leaving him little leverage: become a tenant, try to negotiate the terms of a broader Inglewood partnership or return to San Diego hat in hand. Goodell, Grubman, the Los Angeles committee owners and members from the Carson team huddled in a private meeting area to hammer out a resolution. The mood was somber. Kraft, Hunt, McNair and Mara led the negotiations; Goodell mostly listened.
Pulling these quotes out of the larger context of the story is likely confusing if you haven't read the article, but the common theme is this: Goodell, distracted by his mishandling of the league's domestic violence policies, was completely steamrolled by his bosses -- the owners -- and made to be little more than a silent moderator while the deals were hammered out around him. His role in the end was to simply announce what had transpired to the public -- a PR guy. His input and influence into one of the most important decisions in league history was shockingly, laughably small.
Keep this in mind the next time Goodell appears on your screen to talk player safety, relocation, what a catch is or any other nonsense: He's a puppet. A ridiculously well-paid and hamstrung and kind of sad puppet. It isn't his job to make things happen -- he is supposed to be impartial on matters like this -- but he seems to have completely lost whatever weight was bestowed upon him when he was first made commissioner. Something tells me Adam Silver wouldn't have rolled over as quickly and easily as Goodell did here.
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