Who is the commissioner of the national football league ? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has issued a statement Friday, condemning racism and saying the football league was wrong for not listening to its players’ concerns about racism and police brutality.
There was a startling admission late today from the commissioner of the National Football League. Roger Goodell says the NFL was wrong not to listen to its players’ concerns about racism.
And he says the league now encourages the kind of peaceful protests that many say cost former quarterback Colin Kaepernick his job. The statement, though, made no mention of Kaepernick. This all comes amidst a nationwide protest against police brutality against black people. Joining me now is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.
ROGER GOODELL: We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.
GOLDMAN: Well, there are a couple reasons. Even though around 70% of the NFL’s players are African American, the league has a race problem. Twenty-eight of the 32 head coaches are white. Of the general managers – another very important job – only 2 out of 32 are people of color.
Now, another reason it’s significant – the NFL has had a peaceful protest problem, highlighted by the treatment of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. You will remember back in 2016, he began to kneel during the playing of the national anthem before games. A handful of players joined him in the protests against police treatment of minorities and social inequality.
And the NFL didn’t handle it well. It allowed the issue to be framed in the context of patriotism, and the players, the argument went, were unpatriotic for protesting during the anthem. Kaepernick’s career essentially ended the next year. He’s still without a job. And the others who protested often did so in a very hostile environment.
President Trump infamously used an expletive to refer to them. So for Goodell to come out and say the league was wrong for not listening to these players and their protests – that is a significant admission, although, as you mentioned, he didn’t mention Kaepernick. And some critics out there are saying Kaepernick still doesn’t have a job, so they don’t think this is that big of a deal.
GOLDMAN: It does. I mean, you know, the – well, let’s just say the landscape has changed – you know, the sheer numbers speaking out right now in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. But there is still resistance, and it’s coming from the top again. Today President Trump weighed in.
It came after New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said in an interview this week that players should not kneel during the national anthem; the same argument against protesters that we heard four years ago.
Now, there was swift and angry backlash to that. And Brees made a pretty sincere apology. But today Trump tweeted that Brees should not have apologized, saying there are other things you can protest but not our great American flag. No kneeling, the president said.
What does the commissioner do?
It is easy to imagine the National Football League as a grassroots movement, a natural springing up of the people to mount a competitive league amongst communities.
In this idealised fantasy, modern teams with their bloated salaries and astronomical incomes are the aberration, the cancer that sits on top of a community game. In fact, the reverse is true. The NFL is a brand, a corporation, that has created modern American football as a moneymaking venture.
The league is built on a franchise model, and all of the teams are required to keep within a tight framework of rules set out by the corporation itself. The brand is vigorously defended and players, coaches, and even owners have been sacrificed to keep that brand on track.
In this type of system, as in all business, you need a hatchet man, a defender of the faith, the NFL owners’ well-paid fixer, a man who cleans up their mess. A Winston Wolf made flesh, if you like, for the sports world.
The commissioner is the public-facing figurehead, some might say a corporate schill, for the owners. He is, after all, paid by the owners to the tune of $2 million per year off of each franchise in the league. It falls upon him to moderate disputes and enforce punishment, and for this he is regularly booed in public. You may even say that this has become something of a tradition.
What is Roger Goodell’s background?
The son of a New York senator, Roger Goodell has a natural silver-spoon ring about him. He is a lifelong NFL employee with the bluest of bloods. A multi-millionaire who is rarely seen outside his luxury box at games, Goodell has become a sort of avatar in the popular mind for “The Man”.
His father’s congressional career came to an end in the 1970 elections because Republican voters disliked that he dared to openly oppose then President Nixon’s involvement in Vietnam, and the son has shown some of this grit, making often unpopular stands on policy to the chagrin of, well, nearly everyone.
When owners met in summer of 2006 to select a replacement for outgoing commissioner Paul Tagliabue, 185 names were floated for the first ballot, including such illustrious ones as Condoleeza Rice and Jeb Bush. Over five separate ballots, Goodell rose to see off all competitors and take the reins on August 8th of that year.
During his term, he has faced perhaps more scandal than any other commissioner in history, with Spy Gate, Deflategate, Bountygate, the 2011 lockout and the 2012 referee lockout. He headed negotiations with the Players Association over traumatic head trauma, eventually reaching a $765 million dollar settlement.
His most criticised wrong step, he oversaw a rule implementation requiring players to stand for the anthem, effectively throwing Colin Kaepernick under the bus. In light of the George Floyd murder, he has since walked back his stance on the issue.
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