Commissioner Roger Goodell sits down infrequently for individual interviews. But he holds at least five press conferences a year.
Press conferences, from the perspective of the person giving the press conference, are safer. They ask you a question, you answer it, and then it goes on to the next reporter, who asks the next question. While it can sometimes be a bit awkward when multiple reporters are asking about the same thing (requiring quick work to get the microphone to someone who will be asking about something else), the scattershot approach of a one-question-per-topic press conference is much better than getting Morley Safered from someone who: (1) knows the subject inside out; (2) is willing to ask tough questions and prompt follow-ups; and (3) you have the time and opportunity to do so.
Earlier this week, we showed how Goodell managed to navigate his way through the minefield of materials showing that the Rams and the league told outright lies about Stan Kroenke’s intentions regarding the land he had purchased in Inglewood, California. During that same news conference, Goodell engaged in another impressive act of verbal sleight of hand when he was asked a simple question about the league’s love affair with umpiring.
Jarrett Bell from USA Today I tried to get Goodell to address the philosophical underpinnings of the NFL’s chronic effort to force demands out of the normal public litigation system and into a process I’ve been calling (and won’t stop calling, because it’s accurate) a secret, rigged kangaroo court. Goodell completely ignored the real question based on the league’s obsession with abandoning fair and transparent procedures for something that can be kept hidden, and that means the balance necessarily tips in favor of the NFL and its member franchises.
Bell ultimately asked Goodell to “define” the league’s position on the open court versus arbitration issue, specifically in the context of the Jon Gruden case. Goodell said, “I don’t think that’s a decision I’m going to make, Jarrett. I think that’s what the court is going to do. We will wait to see what the court decides.”
The next day, the court decided that the NFL’s effort to force Gruden’s claims into arbitration must fail. The judge ruled against the league directly from the bench; he didn’t even take a five-minute Wapner-style break.
The NFL lost this one, bad. But the NFL will keep appealing and appealing and appealing as long as it can, both because it refuses to accept the objective weaknesses of its position and because it wants to buy as much time as possible before facing the merits of the claims in open court. .
The NFL and the Rams took their Hail Mary effort to force arbitration of the St. Louis case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. He will surely do the same with Gruden.
Regardless, we will never get a straight answer to Bell’s question. While the answer is obvious, it would be nice if the NFL and/or Goodell were finally forced to publicly admit the reasons for their effort to keep their various legal fights private.