Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 Goodell Quickie

Obviously, it's hard to ever write about things as inessential as sports (or anything, really) in the shadow of the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. Thinking of everyone who lost someone or was impacted in other ways.

In case you missed it: Here is yesterday's newsletter (which went unpublished here for some no-good reason). It's on the journalism implications of the Apple Watch. Don't miss anything -- sign up here to get it in your email.

Roger Goodell: Hoo boy. A couple points I'm paying closest attention to:

*The NFL is all-in on "incompetence" over "malfeasance." That's not a great look, but latter would be/have been a much bigger problem. (Dan Wetzel has a clear-eyed take on that.) The release of the AP story was the first time I allowed myself to even contemplate Goodell might not make it through this. That's not saying he won't -- but that I could even remotely envision it now? Yikes.

*This "independent" investigation is a necessary PR move but not necessarily sufficient. It's hard to say "independent" when the investigator is being overseen by two owners, one of whom (Mara) is on the record supporting Goodell and the other (Rooney) owning a team without an exemplary record as it relates to their star players' run-ins with violence against women. This committee will face much more scrutiny than your typical whitewash.

*What are owners telling the most tapped-in NFL reporters (like Peter King) about Goodell. What is the language? Is it unequivocating or are there cracks? Because cracks are the things that ultimately undo a seemingly untouchable commissioner. The "independent" investigation probably buys Goodell some time with owners -- unless the AP story yesterday turns into something bigger.

*The owners are loyal to Goodell, but they are even more loyal to their business interests. His future rests on the owners' evaluation of whether Goodell can still maximize their investment or whether he has been diminished enough that keeping him around devalues their league even slightly. Because it's a lot easier to find a new commissioner with 100% maximization potential than hope that Goodell can recover whatever he has lost.

*That Goodell is indelibly tarnished is a given here -- he has also overseen the tarnishing of his beloved "Shield." He obviously can live with that, because he loves his job more than he loves the league itself. At a minimum, the Rice story has shown that his monarchical consolidation of power has not been in the best interests of the league.

Upshot: Goodell's entire role rests on unquestioned authority. The questions are there now.

-- D.S.

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