OPINION: The commissioner is paid well to shield owners, and at his annual Super Bowl press conference—his first public remarks since the Brian Flores lawsuit—he was more than up to the task.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is under contract for two more seasons, which would give him 17 years in office. If that’s the end, here’s a suggestion for his next move: a master class on speaking while obviously saying nothing. The title?
“How to Keep Shoveling When Your Audience Knows It’s BS.”
After so much time on the job, Goodell has turned empty words into an art form. The latest gem was delivered Wednesday during his annual Super Bowl news conference. All parties knew beforehand that hiring practices would be a hot topic in light of former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ racial discrimination lawsuit. These would be the commish’s first public remarks since the lawsuit was filed Feb. 1, and he didn’t disappoint his bosses, the NFL owners.
Moments such as these explain Goodell’s astronomical salary. He reportedly raked nearly $130 million over the last two years combined. His bag since taking office is estimated to be $375 million. In 2015, the last year his pay was a matter of public record, ol’ boy pulled $32 million. Nice work if you can get it.
The NFL brags about itself as “The Shield,” a reference to the league’s logo.
In actuality, Goodell is the human shield, placed in front of cowering owners to take fire aimed at them.
At this point, he doesn’t even need to prepare. He can simply review a compilation of his previous responses over the years when asked about Black coaches getting few shots at being head coaches. It was the first question at last year’s Super Bowl news conference and the first one this year.
Among the classics Wednesday: “Racism and any form of discrimination is against our values, and really something we will not tolerate,” Goodell said.
To be fair, we need to discuss pronouns for a second. Goodell used “we” and “our” throughout the 40-minute Q&A, but the subject wasn’t always clear. What’s certain is they can’t be used interchangeably with “league office” and “team owners.” Those entities aren’t synonymous and they apparently don’t share the same views on diversity.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addresses the media on February 09, 2022 at the NFL Network’s Champions Field at the NFL Media Building on the SoFi Stadium campus in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
According to The Undefeated, nine of the 17 highest-ranking officials in NFL Football Operations are Black. Eight of those nine have titles of vice president or higher, and the group is led by Troy Vincent, a Black man who serves as executive vice president of football operations. By comparison, Flores’ lawsuit states that only 15 of roughly 129 head coaching positions have been filled by Black candidates in nearly 20 years of the Rooney Rule.
So, when Goodell said, “We work really hard and believe in diversity, and believe in it as a value,” he has receipts if we’re talking about NFL headquarters in New York. The workforce of roughly 800 employees at 345 Park Avenue reportedly “looks like America,” a mix of people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds.
That’s one reason Wednesday’s exercise was so frustrating and infuriating, familiar as it was. Here are a few paraphrased questions along with Goodell’s tired answers, plus what he should’ve said as real talk.
Question: Why aren’t y’all hiring more Black head coaches?
Answer: “We’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time with our committees, particularly our diversity, equity, and inclusion committees. We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress in a lot of areas, but not at head coach.”
Real talk: C’mon, bruh. You know the reason as well as I do.
Q: How come more Black head coaches aren’t being hired?
A: “They’re getting into the room and getting the interviews. What we want to see is the outcomes. We’re going to step back and look at everything we’re doing and re-evaluate that.”
Real talk: I can’t do nothing with these owners.
Q: What’s the reason for so few Black head coaches?
A: “We just have to do a better job. We have to look and see if there’s another thing we can do in attracting the best talent and making our league inclusive. If I had the answer right now, I’d give it to you.”
Real talk: I understand your concern and feel your pain, but my hands are tied.
Q: Why aren’t more Black head coaches hired?
A: “As a league, I don’t think there’s a subject we’ve discussed more frequently over the last four or five years. We need to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to be more successful and more effective.”
Real talk: Just gotta keep hope alive that hearts and minds will change.
Q: What are you gonna do about the owners’ racist hiring practices?
A: “We won’t tolerate racism and discrimination. If there are policies we need to modify, we’re going to do that. If we see evidence of discrimination, we’ll deal with that in a serious way that will reflect the fact that we won’t tolerate it.”
Real talk: What can I do? They’ve made me rich AF, and I want those direct deposits to continue.
Thanks for nothing, Roger. See you next year.
An award-winning columnist and a principal of BlackDoor Ventures, Inc., Deron Snyder is a veteran journalist, stratcomm professional, author, and adjunct professor. A native of Brooklyn and an Alpha from H.U.-You Know, he resides in metropolitan DC with his wife, Vanessa, mother of their daughters, Sierra and Sequoia. To learn more, please visit blackdoorventures.com/deron.
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