Andrew Touhy, Account Executive
In the most simplistic terms, Roger Goodell took Tom Brady to court based on an NFL report, picked the venue, and still lost. In today’s 40-page ruling, Goodell was criticized heavily by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman for dispensing “his own brand of industrial justice.” For the most powerful, yet most detested commissioner in American sports, one would think that a loss in the #DeflateGate trial, one stacked heavily against Tom Brady, would create enough ill-will towards the commissioner to silence Goodell.
But in a statement released today, Roger Goodell announced that he will be appealing Berman’s decision to free Brady, citing it as an issue of maintaining his “responsibility to protect the integrity of the game.” His reasoning would seem ironic though, as it requires an individual with integrity in the first place to install policy protecting the integrity of a league he oversees.
And while my knee-jerk reaction is to tell Goodell to give it a rest, as this trial has gone on long enough, afforded him the unanimous rancor of NFL fans, and exposed the fact that he plays by his own rules, my reasoned observations have led me to the conclusion that none of that matters.
In the last calendar year, the NFL has scoured the headlines for every reason, none of them positive, all of them unrelated to football. Roger Goodell and the league he oversees was disparaged, and well deserved. Yet, last winter’s Super Bowl XLIX was the most watched television broadcast in the history of the United States. At this point, it seems ignorant to assume that the NFL’s negative headlines will turn away its consumers.
So while every rule of common sense would indicate that it is perhaps time for Goodell to call off the hounds on the #DeflateGate case, and step down to restore the reputation of himself and the NFL, one must remember that the rules of crisis management and reputation control simply do not apply to the NFL, and they do not apply to its ruler.
While in our business, sometimes the best news for a client is ‘no news,’ in order that they may maintain their reputation and retain key stakeholders, the NFL is an anomaly. For the NFL, all press is good press. As long as the NFL stays in the headlines, they win, and Goodell wins, regardless of the circumstance. So while we may be ‘right’ in disparaging Goodell’s character, his integrity, and the behavior of the league that he oversees, we will keep turning on the television on Sundays. Goodell does not fear the backlash of being criticized for his appeal, because he does not have to. Goodell is the king of the NFL, and the NFL, good or bad, rules America; that is all that matters.