SBD/February 3, 2011/People and Pop Culture

Roger Goodell's Communication Skills, Labor Battle Featured In SI Cover Story

Goodell lauded for willingness to interact with fans, owners
NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL "has become as much the face of the NFL" as Patriots QB TOM BRADY or Colts QB PEYTON MANNING, according to Peter King in a cover story for SI. Goodell "tweets, though stiffly; he's never met a talk show on which he couldn't impart his message;" and he "does fan chats on" He "blind-calls fans who e-mail him, text-messages players and coaches daily, gives his cell number out generously, talks to tailgaters at most games he attends and sometimes just stops on the street for a quick chat with a fan about the game." Goodell "can schmooze like" late Commissioner PETE ROZELLE, and if he is "not as cerebral as" former Commissioner PAUL TAGLIABUE, he "more freely embraces the new." Goodell "has turned into a better communicator and listener than Tagliabue ever was." Several owners said that they "feel far more connected to the league office and to the commissioner himself than they did under the previous regime," and owners "feel Goodell allows them to state their case and speak their minds more freely." One ownership source said that Goodell's "level of trust among the owners is so high that if he recommends an agreement that passes muster with the players, it will easily get the three-quarters vote necessary for passage." During Goodell's tenure the "on-field product has been terrific, with success spread around," and when you factor in "soaring TV viewership ... the business of football obviously has been very, very good."

LET'S MAKE A DEAL: King writes Goodell is a "proven deal-maker," but is also "quite good at drawing a line in the sand and letting nothing obliterate it." He "has a cold and confrontational side that serves him well in staring down miscreants and business adversaries alike." Unless a new CBA is reached in the coming weeks, the owners "will lock the players out of all team facilities on March 4, and the clock will start ticking on the 2011 season." NBC Sports Group Chair DICK EBERSOL said of the talks, "At his heart Roger can be a cold son of a bitch. I think the people on the other side of the negotiating table are going to hear that in the coming months. He's going to show mettle, and he's going to do what he thinks is best for the National Football League. It's what he's always done." King writes Goodell "will need all the boldness and problem-solving skills he's shown ... to resolve the myriad issues dividing the two sides." Panthers Owner JERRY RICHARDSON: "If Roger's in office for 25 years, this will be the toughest challenge he'll ever face. However it turns out, it's a resolution he'll have to live with for the rest of his career" (SI, 2/7 issue).
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