Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

League takes issue with AP column

Jeff Pash, Greg Aiello

NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash, right, speaks as NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, left, looks on during a news conference after an NFL owners labor committee meeting in College Park, Ga., on Wednesday, July 20, 2011. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)


When NFL spokesman Greg Aiello takes issue with something we write on PFT, he calls us out via Twitter. When he doesn’t like something written by the Associated Press, Aiello breaks out the typewriter.

Aiello has written a lengthy response to a column from Jim Litke of the AP. The Litke column is, basically, a sawed-off shotgun blast of various and in spots inaccurate contentions regarding the NFL’s ongoing quest for dominance of the American sports landscape.

Litke’s cynicism is sort of cute, in that it implies he’s only realizing now that the NFL has pitched a tent at the top of the mountain and is building a moat around the perimeter. That’s what successful businesses do. They keep looking for ways to improve and to grow. The improvements are limited only by the ingenuity and drive of the business; the growth is limited only by consumer demand.

Apart from the factual errors in Litke’s column (e.g., he claims Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wants taxpayers to “foot the bill” for renovations to Sun Life Stadium, which as Aiello points out implies incorrectly that the project includes no private money), it arises from the premise that, in a capitalistic economy, it’s somehow wrong for the NFL to capitalize on its success.

At a time when strangers happily are buying up the items on Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III’s wedding registry at Bed, Bath & Beyond, there’s nothing wrong with the NFL doing whatever the NFL can do to take advantage of the enormous power and popularity it has amassed. As long as the NFL uses that power and popularity in legal and ethical ways, the more power and popularity to it.

Still, Litke whines about the NFL rewarding cities that have contributed public funds to stadium projects with Super Bowls. Should the cities that have contributed public fund to stadium projects be excluded from hosting Super Bowls?

Litke whines about a potential three-week delay in the draft, and the “scheduling conflicts” conflicts it will potentially create with Mother’s Day and NHL and NBA playoff games. As to the former, the draft isn’t held on a Sunday. As to the latter, if consumers choose to watch and follow the NFL draft instead of hockey or basketball playoffs, why should Litke or anyone else (other than hockey and basketball owners) care?

Litke whines about the extra work that the expanded calendar will create for NFL employees. First, free agency, the Scouting Combine, and the draft will still happen, only at different times. Second, if more work truly is created, teams can hire more help or pay the current employees more money or risk having employees who don’t want to work a little harder leaving for other jobs.

Litke also whines that “many clubs are likely to cut out minicamps” if the draft is delayed, revealing that he has no understanding of how the NFL works. The coaches will ensure that every practice permitted by the labor deal is conducted. Besides, if Litke is worried about people working too hard, shouldn’t he applaud a change that results in less work for players and coaches?

With all due respect (i.e., here comes the insult), Litke just wants to whine about the NFL, and to do so he has slapped together some flimsy gripes and complaints without regard to whether they hold water.

The far better point is that, by constantly expanding and growing, the league risks saturating the marketplace, and in turn seeing its power and popularity diminish. Moreover, it’s human nature to resent (or at least to be leery of) anything that gets too big, too strong, and/or too rich.

Perhaps that mindset spawned Litke’s column. Perhaps the league is inching toward the point of diminishing returns. Even if that’s the case (and we think this could indeed happen if the NFL forces an 18-game season onto the American public), the NFL has every right to keep looking for ways to expand its influence and to enhance its balance sheet.

The NFL has plenty of flaws and problems, and it seems at times to thrive despite them. But the goal of any worthwhile business is to get bigger, and no company ever should say, “OK, that’s enough. We’re good right here."Those that do risk not being “right here,” or anywhere else, for very long.