Over at my other day job, GQ just posted this big fat schlongread from Gabriel Sherman about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. You should head over there and read the whole thing now, because the piece does wonders for anyone who (like me) is looking to hate Goodell even more than they already do. In light of the events of the past week, Sherman's profile is particularly handy in painting Goodell as Patriots owner's Robert Kraft's pegboy. Here's one such illustrative tidbit, which I will now isolate and paint in big red letters on a highway billboard:
Earlier that day, Kraft had appeared on CBS This Morning and was questioned by Charlie Rose about Goodell's handling of the Rice situation. It didn't go well. "He had no knowledge of this video," Kraft told Rose stiffly. "Anyone who's second-guessing that doesn't know him." After the interview, the source says, Kraft conferred with his friend Leslie Moonves, the CEO of CBS. The two men spoke often, but this call was urgent: In roughly forty-eight hours, CBS was set to air the first of eight Thursday Night Football games (for which the network reportedly paid about $250 million), and the game featured the Ravens. Kraft and Moonves agreed that Goodell needed to appear on CBS News and answer questions. The questioner, Moonves added, should be a woman…
So large is Kraft's sway with Goodell that one veteran NFL executive likes to call him "the assistant commissioner."
There are many unflattering conclusions that I would like to take away from the above excerpt! The first is that Patriots owner Robert Kraft will happily stage-manage the NFL commissioner whenever he feels it necessary to step in. Second, you can see that NFL higher-ups were far more concerned with LOOKING like they were handling domestic violence appropriately than actually doing so (cut to Eli Manning in a No More ad looking like you just told him that we've run out of cupcakes). Third … GUYS WE NEED A CHICK FOR THIS THING.
Sherman's profile goes further in painting Goodell as a stubborn company man who, through a mixture of paranoia and resentment for the little people, has bumbled his way into making the NFL one the most divisive enterprises in modern America. Observe:
"The players' union wants to bring Roger down anytime they can," (Texans owner) Bob McNair told me. A media executive added: "All of the owners are in unison on this. A lot of people feel it's a liberal agenda." Says another source, a friend of Goodell's: "You have Al Sharpton saying Goodell should be fired. What the fuck does Al Sharpton know?"
Imagine being a billionaire with a permanent, endless revenue stream thanks to a brain-damaging sport and somehow feeling like the VICTIM. That mentality isn't an accidental byproduct of Goodell's leadership. At every turn, the NFL has been openly irritated at being compelled, against their will, to deal with all of this shit: injuries, abuse, etc. In keeping with the hypocrisy of the 32 men he answers to, Goodell also berated employees for being overpaid (Goodell earned $44 million in salary last season):
At NFL headquarters there was suddenly a new mood, a brasher, more money-minded approach. The new commissioner demanded loyalty from staffers and even questioned their value. "He thought everyone was overpaid," a former senior executive told me. "He always told me I was overpaid." Another told me: "He gave me a hard time about my contract. I was like, The fuck you doing? This is peanuts."
And here is McNair, who now deserves to be instantly enshrined in the Asshole Owner Hall of Fame, musing about brand protection and complaining that the NFL's concussion issue is a false flag:
"It was about protecting the brand," recalled Bob McNair, who attended the sessions. "Do we want the brand attacked on this for the next ten years? Or do we want to go ahead and take the high road? In effect, we don't think most of these concussions referenced even occurred in the NFL, but we're not going to complain about it."
Again, note the tone of grievance in McNair's statement. These are the gifts Goodell has given to football: not only the visible and lingering resentment of those in power being asked to act in a humane manner, but adopting the institutional tone of a 90-year-old oil-state senator discussing climate change with Sean Hannity. DURRRRR STUPID LIBRULS WITH THEIR SCIENCE OUR BRAND CAN'T TAKE THE HIGH ROAD NOW DURRRR
One last excerpt before I send you off, concerning former league commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who in retrospect seems like a much better commissioner even if he deliberately ignored all that "brain injuries are bad" stuff:
Tagliabue sees Goodell's laser focus on profit and his combative stance toward players as key parts of the problem. "If they see you making decisions only in economic terms, they start to understand that and question what you're all about," he said. "There's a huge intangible value in peace. There's a huge intangible value in having allies." As for his relationship with his protégé, Tagliabue says, "We haven't talked much since I left. It's been his decision. Bountygate didn't help." In our conversation, Tagliabue seemed disappointed, and a bit sad, about the sorry state of the game he ran for seventeen years.
And he should be.