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Roger Goodell Is Tired Of Those Inconvenient Questions

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 12: Roger Goodell speaks onstage during the 2023 HOPE Global Forum at Hyatt Regency Atlanta on December 12, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Derek White/Getty Images)
Derek White/Getty Images

In keeping with the direction of his corporate masters and their plan for the future of football, Roger Goodell’s press conference is going pay-per-view. The kicker is, unless you're on the list, you can't even pay enough to get in.

Goodell's annual State Of My Salary address, a Super Bowl Friday staple open to any credentialed media at the trade show, is now on Super Bowl Monday—and it's by invitation only. In other words, he's sick of getting surprise questions (which were already rare) from unvetted non-sycophants, so he's going behind a thought wall.

This should bother you if you've ever thought you would get a useful answer out of him, but by now we know better. Even if this isn't a reaction to Jim Trotter's questions about black coaches, it is a pretty clear statement that Goodell thinks he's outgrown even the illusion of theatrical transparency.

Commissioners aren't as stupid as they try to look, except when Rob Manfred carries John Fisher's suitcase, and they have concluded, probably rightly, that their job description no longer involves caring about media unless it is followed by the word "deals." Goodell's pay stub has never included the line item, "Spoke to Peter King."

But now that the nation has finally and fully capitulated to Big Football, Goodell doesn't need to sell anything to anyone except during contract or labor negotiations, so the question is not "Why is the annual dog-and-pony invitation-only?" but "Why is there either a dog or a pony at all?" The only thing that can happen when Goodell speaks in public is bad for him because of the difficult-to-refute proposition that the NFL has cornered the market on eyes. Nobody will listen if he maintains his AI impersonation, and if he says or does something inadvertently damaging he will catch a brief spoonful of hell, so what's the benefit for him?

Perhaps he might trumpet this year’s black coaching hires right before you ask, "Why would I care what he thinks on any subject?" But what happens after he takes credit for Raheem Morris, Jerod Mayo, and Antonio Pierce and he gets asked about the Washington Post report on the NFL's obstruction of concussion settlements, or someone asking if the gambling industry is a caring and sensitive lover? That's the problem with answering a question: it might lead to another one. And if the collateral damage is looking contemptuous of and distant from the public, well, he is contemptuous of and distant from the public, and the public keeps coming out wallets-first.

Now don't get us wrong—a policymaker is always of more use to us when available for honest and forthright questions about the business in general. But we mere human beings are not Roger Goodell's target audience. That runs on a sliding scale of importance from Jerry Jones to network and streaming service CEOs to Taylor Swift's tour manager to Washington lawmakers to local politicians when a new stadium must be extracted to the parking garage attendant to Mark Davis.

Which still invites the question: "Why is he bothering to hold a press conference at all when the value of the sham has finally diminished to zero?" Now THAT'S the one question one of the invitees should dare to ask for all the rest of us.

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