Welcome to Deadspin’s farewell-to-2020 IDIOT OF THE YEAR awards! If you have made it this far, then congratulations, brave traveler.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell certainly had his fair share of idiotic moments this year.
The coronavirus and racial justice movement sent all sports into a tailwind this year worldwide, and only the best leaders were able to steady the ships and emerge with minimal damage.
Goodell was not one of those leaders.
The NFL commissioner has repeatedly been a day late and a dollar short this year. First, Goodell failed to postpone the 2020 NFL Draft in April, even though pro days around the country were canceled and teams had limited access to prospects because of COVID-19. As a result, only six FCS players were selected, including only one HBCU player. Contrast this with the 13 FCS picks from 2019, including four players from HBCUs. If you think that doesn’t make a difference, ask Hall of Famers like Jerry Rice or Walter Payton whether drafting small-school and HBCU talent is important.
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This summer, in the wake of the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, and George Floyd, Goodell had to apologize to players for not listening on matters of racial injustice.
If Goodell had listened to Colin Kaepernick in 2016, and not allowed the league to blackball the Black quarterback, he wouldn’t have been in that situation. If Goodell would have stuck by Kaepernick’s side at the time of his initial protests, many of the NFL’s racial justice-related PR nightmares could have been avoided.
Now, in 2020, Goodell is reaping what he has sown. For many, it’s far too late for the NFL to suddenly jump on the bandwagon.
Once it came time for play to start, it was clear that Goodell, from the outset, was dangerously close to fumbling the season. Many asked why the league wouldn’t just implement a bubble system for play similar to the NBA’s successful setup in Orlando. Others asked whether the NFL’s COVID measures were good enough to limit outbreaks and keep players safe.
Numerous players have tested positive for COVID-19 this season, and some teams like the Ravens and Titans have wrestled with significant crises as a result. Players like the Saints’ Emmanuel Sanders and the Browns’ Myles Garrett have spoken about how hard the virus has hit them.
It was clear at the time, and it’s even more obvious in hindsight, that Goodell should have tried to do more to protect these players. But the commissioner continued to try to plow through, even as cases rose, compromising both safety and the on-field product.
Goodell has come up short over and over this year, which is why he finds himself on this list. He has prioritized the NFL’s bottom line to the detriment of players and their families. The bubble burst on his reluctance to stand behind players in their fight against racial injustice. He limited opportunities for small-school prospects to make it.
Goodell has made his bed and now he must lay in it.
Welcome to the idiot list.