Patriots

Patriots

HOUSTON -- Roger Goodell didn’t duck questions from Boston media Wednesday during his pre-Super Bowl press conference. 

SUPER BOWL LI: WEDNESDAY REPORT

Before handing him a grudging “attaboy,” just remember Goodell’s made more than $240 million during his 10-year tenure as NFL commissioner. Standing once a year in a ballroom of reporters to answer a handful of pointed questions during a 40-minute session should be manageable. 

This was standard issue Goodell, proudly defiant, deftly moving goalposts. It takes a special kind of . . .  something . . . to be able to listen to a question, process it, then figure a way to create a response that has little to do with the question and everything to do with self-congratulation. 

The erosion of trust in Goodell among players, fans and the media exists because Goodell is simply not believable anymore. Ask him what he’s having for lunch, he’ll give a weather report. With a straight face. 

That is the essence of Goodell’s very real problem. Deflategate, Bountygate, the butchering of domestic-violence investigations, the cloak-and-dagger score-settling done in different branches of the league office, the drooling greed with which every revenue stream is explored and exploited . . . all those and more are hits to the league’s reputation. Goodell's, and the league's, response to these crises -- the lack of introspection and the manipulation of facts -- leads to the inescapable conclusion that people love football but increasingly hate the NFL 

 

And that’s why -- even though the Deflategate questions were worth asking -- I wanted to know if he even realizes how little trust and confidence he inspires.

His response?

“The thing you have to always do every day is earn that trust, earn that credibility and that’s in how you act and how you do things,” he said. “Being transparent. Making sure people understand the decisions you make.”

Allow me to interject because it’s fascinating that he is intimating that “being transparent” and “making sure people understand the decisions you make” is something he and the league do. They did the opposite in the Josh Brown case in terms of transparency. It blew up in their face the same way the Ray Rice case blew up in their face, even after they took specific steps in the wake of Rice to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. 

As for “making sure people understand the decisions you make” we are two years and a week past the initiation of a $30 million process to prove that a puff of air may have been released from footballs. Forget the wrangling over the facts of the case and the science. There has never been and will never be a way to make people understand why it all was truly necessary. 

Back to Goodell. 

“I don’t expect for one second for people to agree with every decision I make or we make as a league,” he explained. “Those are always difficult, sometimes contentious and sometimes less-than-perfect decisions. But you do them in the best interests of the long-term health of the game and the NFL. I think we do that. We always seek to do things better.”

Goodell faced a flurry of questions from New England media outlets. There was no pre-question vetting done by the league, no apparent exclusions. In defending the NFL’s Deflategate investigation and punishment, Goodell employed strong-sounding-but-not-quite-accurate representations of what the courts ruled. 

Goodell said the Second Circuit “validated” the league’s conclusion there was a violation and that the courts “supported the facts.”

In reality, the Second Circuit ruled Goodell acted within his broad powers to suspend. It didn’t rule on the facts of the investigation, merely the legality of the decision. 

I pointed this out to Goodell and he alleged that in the Second Circuit Court decision it was stated that there were “compelling if not overwhelming facts here.”

Those words were uttered in a question by Judge Denny Chin during the second appeal hearing, but in no way did any of the judges -- Berman, Chin, Parker or Katzmann -- rule on the facts or validate the investigation. 

That’s the kind of sleight of hand that Goodell engages in. It’s propaganda. It’s not a mistake. It’s dishonest. 

But hey, it’s a living.