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Rare interview of Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill avoids all of the hot-button issues of the past 12 months

On Friday morning, I noticed an item on the Cardinals’ website highlighting specific topics from an interview of Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill on Arizona Sports 98.7. I skimmed the article, not expecting to find anything about the various controversies that have engulfed the Cardinals and Bidwill over the past year on the website owned and operated by the Cardinals and, in turn, by Bidwill.

As it turns out, there couldn’t have been anything in the article about the various controversies that have engulfed the Cardinals and Bidwill over the past year because not one of the controversies were mentioned during the 12-minute interview with hosts Dan Bickley and Vince Marotta.

Here’s the full interview from Bidwill’s annual visit to the station’s ironically named “Newsmakers” week.

The team has made plenty of not-so-great news in the past year. From a woeful showing in an NFL Players Association survey to the Terry McDonough grievance to the team’s shameful P.R. response to his grievance to the on-the-record claims of former Cardinals executive Ron Minegar to the confirmation that burner phones were used to communicate with former G.M. Steve Keim during a suspension following a DUI arrest to the tampering settlement with the Eagles over the hiring of coach Jonathan Gannon, there was no shortage of hot topics on which Bidwill has not yet been questioned publicly.

The closest the interview came to any of those topics happened when Bickley tiptoed through the tampering tulips to craft the most innocuous question possible: “Obviously, the hiring of him created some angst — it created some draft-night angst between I guess you and the owner in Philadelphia — turns out to be well worth the trouble. Your assessment of Jonathan Gannon after one year on the job, especially with all of that stuff that kind of prefaced his entry into the NFL.”

Folks, the Cardinals blatantly tampered with Gannon in violation of league rules. The settlement was announced, and the controversy was first disclosed, five minutes before the start of the 2023 draft. There are many unanswered questions about what the Cardinals did, why the Cardinals did it, how extensive the contacts were, whether and to what extent it distracted Gannon from his preparations for the Super Bowl as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, and ultimately whether the situation undermined the integrity of the 2022 NFL championship game. The “angst” was hardly mutual; it was justifiably directed by the Eagles to the Cardinals because the Cardinals deliberately and brazenly broke the rules. (And, of course, anyone who tries to get answers to those questions is dismissed as a conspiracy theorist.)

It’s no surprise that the interview avoided any of the various hot-button issues. Arizona Sports 98.7 is the flagship radio station of the Cardinals. If the hosts had thrown anything other than the softest of softballs to Bidwill, Arizona Sports 98.7 might not be the flagship radio station much longer.

It’s also possible that the Cardinals made it clear to Arizona Sports 98.7 that Bidwill would agree to make his annual appearance during “Newsmakers” week only if the hosts agree in advance not to throw high heat. Or low heat. Or any heat.

Kyle Odegard, who for several years cashed paychecks signed by Bidwill to cover the team, pointed out the failure of Arizona Sports 98.7 to ask Bidwill a single remotely challenging question while acknowledging that he once was similarly compromised, too.

“I worked for the Cardinals for nearly eight years from 2013-2021, and in that time, avoided, minimized or was forced to remove content that would have been damaging or controversial to the organization,” Odegard wrote in response to the Bidwill radio interview. “I chose a stable job and my desired occupation — beat writer of a professional sports team — over communicating the whole truth, and thus I’ve been in the exact same shoes as Bickley and Marotta. . . . It’s easier to take that path because it’s more conventional and certainly less hectic, but it doesn’t adequately serve the legions of Cardinals fans who pay good money to support their favorite team. . . . That group deserves answers when serious allegations pop up, and despite Bidwill speaking publicly on Friday, they did not get to hear his side of the story.”

Odegard’s dilemma is hardly uncommon. For more than twenty years now, the NFL and its teams have directly hired reporters to cover themselves. The conflict of interest is obvious. They are state media; the modern-day equivalent of TASS, the media outlet once owned and operated by the Soviet Union. (And they still get all-caps PISSED when you point out this indisputable fact.)

The problem is that the proliferation of state media in sports creates an expectation that others in the media (especially reporters who work for “broadcast partners”) will behave in similar fashion. If not, the league and/or the teams will just grant “EXCLUSIVE!” interviews to the media outlets that they own. And/or they’ll periodically complain to the broadcast partners about the reporters who dare to exercise independence in their reporting/commentary or to ask questions that might make the person answering the question a wee bit uncomfortable.

Some fans don’t care about getting to the truth, and that’s their prerogative. For those who realize that: (1) chronic dysfunction traces to ownership; and (2) ownership can’t be fired, it has to be excruciating to see the one person with the Cardinals who needs to be asked tough questions on behalf of the paying customers treated with kid gloves when he makes an appearance that has of late become even more rare than the annual excursions of Punxsutawney Phil.