Roger Goodell and the NFL Owners: What Is the Point of These PR Stunts?

Caleb GarlingCorrespondent INovember 19, 2016

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - FEBRUARY 08:  Super Bowl XLIV Most Valuable Player, quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints hugs NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell before speaking during the Super Bowl Champion Coach Press Conference at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center on February 8, 2010 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

In between court dates, you’ve probably heard that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been holding conference calls with teams’ season ticket holders. While these calls are advertised as the Commish connecting with the common fan on common football questions, the calls typically turn to the labor dispute, and Goodell doesn’t shy from pointing a finger at DeMaurice Smith and the players (Can we call them a union any more?).

Earlier this month he spoke to Falcon fans. "We need more negotiations and less litigation. This is going to get solved through bargaining and talking, and the faster that we can get back to the table and really start the serious negotiations which we got into during the mediation process back in February.” He’s made similar arguments to other fanbases.

I’ve never thought Goodell was a stranger to PR games, but my usual rule of thumb in these sorts of sprawling legal battles is that the side exerting greater PR efforts is usually on the wronger (not a word) side of the moral line. Or to consider the idea a little differently and quote someone far more eloquent, James Madison, “All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.”

Yet, we know that.

But then I saw this absurdly long “essay” from Giants owner John Mara to fans about how we need to “get back to football,” as if the thought hadn’t occurred to anyone. And a thought dawned on me: maybe this isn’t as much about PR or “trust,” and maybe the owners think we care—care about the specifics of this labor dispute. 

Sure, the issues are digestible, though extremely boring, and you learn something now and then, but have you heard two people actually having a passionate debate—one defending the owners, the other the players? Unless it was a hardcore right-winger and hardcore left-winger using the owners and players as a proxy for their economic beliefs, no way. You may think either the millionaires or the billionaires are “in the right,” but you’re not going to go to battle for them.

In his essay, Mara wanders through each aspect of the dispute, both history and current litigation, making his convoluted case that, echoing the Commish, the sanctity of football depends on finding a solution at “the bargaining table.” 

"Everyone should realize what is at stake, especially in this economy."

Way to misjudge your audience. One could easily derive from Madison’s words the notion that those with power don’t realize how it’s corrupted their view of the world. Has ownership become so enamored with their “plight” in this dispute that they think we, the fans, would read this diatribe and think, “Oh gosh, John Mara is right. The players have been so ridiculous in all this and were they to win, clearly football would descend into a post-Rapture wasteland.”

And why play the "economy" card? We get that every day from politicians trying to scare us into their vote.

Look guys, we just want football. We don’t really care who get’s paid what. Our money is gone once they swipe our credit card. Ultimately we could give a damn whether players get 37 or 38 cents on each dollar. We want to sit on the couch with our family and friends or stand in a bar or thump against the seats in the upper deck. We want to cheer on our favorite team and forget about the rest of life for a while.

We just want football. Spare us letters and PR calls and the doomsday threats. We get that on the news every day. Just put the game back on.