SBD/September 26, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Goodell Caught Between Owners Who Want Deal And Those Taking Hard Line

Some owners acknowledge Goodell is in tough spot with NFLRA dispute
As much as Monday’s Packers-Seahawks game “would seem to have put a spotlight on the need for a settlement” of the NFL’s labor dispute with the NFL Referees Association, it “might actually have complicated matters" for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, according to a front-page piece by Judy Battista of the N.Y. TIMES. Sources said that Goodell is “concerned about the mistakes being made game after game.” However, while Goodell is “the most powerful commissioner in American sports, he is ultimately answerable to the owners of 32 teams.” Even some owners acknowledge that Goodell "is in the difficult position of balancing the interests of his constituents.” Some owners “might dig in, fearful that if the NFL makes a deal in the coming days, it will appear that Goodell surrendered to public pressure.” But other owners “want a deal soon, because they are so troubled by the damage they believe is being done to the game by the botched calls.” A source said  that owners were “dug in and resistant to more compromise.” Battista writes it is Goodell’s job "to maneuver between those disparate camps, while also taking the long view of the league’s future.” Owners fear if the league is seen as giving in, that “could change the dynamics of other negotiations in the future,” which ultimately could “jeopardize their winning streak in business matters” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/26).

RESOLUTION NEEDED: In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs writes Goodell has “only one move now: Convince the owners to immediately end the lockout of the NFL officials.” Damage has “already been done,” and Goodell “will never fully recover from his miscalculation that he could slip even three weeks of scab officiating past football fans.” Jacobs: “Soon enough, the question will become can he recover at all? Moments define a man's career. And this one stands to define Goodell” (HARTFORD COURANT, 9/26). In Houston, Dale Robertson writes Goodell “serves at the behest of the league's owners, and the time has come for those gentlemen to step in, open their bulbous wallets and tell him, ‘Enough already!’” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/26). In Newark, Steve Politi writes under the header, “Replace The Replacement Refs Now, Roger Goodell. The Integrity Of The Game Is At Stake” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 9/26). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said of Goodell, "He’s got to get in there right now and take care of this thing. There’s no reason to dig your heels in on maybe what would cost each club $100,000. ... You are nickel and diming these guys” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 9/25). In N.Y., Steve Serby writes, “This one’s on you, commissioner. Get your billionaire owners to stop hiding behind the NFL shield over a mere pittance for the real refs in a league slated to take in $9.5 billion in revenues this season, a 7 percent increase over 2011. If there is a Hall of Fame of Pettiness, then all of you have earned busts” (N.Y. POST, 9/26).

TIME FOR GOODELL TO GO: SPORTING NEWS' David Steele wrote under the header, “NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Must Go -- Now.” Goodell is “the walking definition of ‘conduct detrimental to the game.’” If he were a player “conducting his business the way he has lately, he’d be sitting out half the season.” The integrity of the NFL is “not being questioned, not being doubted, but is being openly disregarded.” The NBA, NHL and MLB “haven’t been dragged through the mud the way the NFL is now.” The referee “debacle is merely the last straw.” It “landed like a fallen space satellite on top of this pile” of issues, including the player lockout last summer, the push for an 18-game season, the Saints' bounty scandal and the player-safety crisis. Steele: “Put it all together, and that is one singularly rotten way to run a league” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 9/25). In Tacoma, Dave Boling writes Goodell has “failed the nation of fans by having been unable to generate the leadership force to get the labor dispute solved before it began tarnishing the image of the league and reducing a proud product into a laughable satire” (Tacoma NEWS-TRIBUNE, 9/26). But ESPN's Dan Le Batard said, "You don't fire him. If you’re the owners, he’s taking all the heat for what they want here." Goodell is the "punching bag," and he is the person "getting killed publicly." Le Batard: "You leave him out there to be the piñata if you’re the owners. ... This is where he earns that salary because he’s being paid to go and be the receptacle for all those bad feelings, and owners are hiding behind him on this one. This is the tough part of his job, to be the face of this issue, because we’re not yelling at the owners" ("Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 9/25).

OWNERS ANSWERABLE: In St. Louis, Bernie Miklasz writes a lot of people currently "are ripping” Goodell, “as they should.” Miklasz: “But I’m more disgusted by the NFL owners. Goodell works for them. He’s their employee. He has been granted a large measure of independence to exercise his authority in a bold manner. But if the owners wanted to settle this irresponsible and embarrassing lockout of the NFL’s real officials, it would be done.” Goodell will make a deal with locked-out referees “when the owners insist on it” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/26). In N.Y., Gary Myers writes if Goodell and the owners "were waiting for the officials to finally blow a game before they felt a sense of urgency, well, fellas, the time has arrived.” Giants President & CEO John Mara “needs to step up and force the issue.” Myers: “If the events of Monday night in Seattle don’t convince Goodell and the owners to bring sanity back to the game, then they will just reemphasize all they care about is making more money and all his talk about protecting the shield and the integrity of the game is nothing more than commissionerspeak” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/26).

BUSINESS MODEL STILL DOING WELL: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes the reason NFL owners are “willing to damage the integrity of their product is because they know they're not damaging the integrity of their business.” The owners run “the most-watched league in this country -- nothing else is even close -- and they know that even a little unfairness isn't going to change that.” If anything, the “officiating controversies in the season's first three weeks have helped them” (L.A. TIMES, 9/26). In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell writes the owners “know they can't be touched” and they know that “the stands are going to still be filled, that the TV ratings will continue to outdistance every other sport each weekend and you will flood into their football palaces every Sunday and spend your disposable income on their overpriced concessions and team apparel” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/26). ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano wrote the owners “don't care how ridiculous the proliferation their lockout of the officials makes them or their league look, because people are still talking about and watching the games” (ESPN.com, 9/25). In Baltimore, Kevin Cowherd wrote at NFL HQ in N.Y., it is “business as usual.” Cowherd: “The games are exciting, the stands are packed, TV ratings are great, so what's the big deal?” (BALTIMORESUN.com, 9/25). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes the NFL “only cares about the answer to these questions: Are people still watching? Have we lost any money? Answers: Yes and no.” There will be “a point of diminished returns.” Hyde: “But we're not there yet” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/26).

FANS CAN'T QUIT THE NFL: In Minneapolis, Patrick Reusse writes under the header, “Despite NFL’s Flaws, We Cannot Look Away.” Reusse: “The NFL knows your threats to stop watching, attending and Fantasizing are hollow. It will remain the most watched, most profitable and most cynical league in the history of American sports” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/26). In Detroit, Drew Sharp writes the owners are “popping champagne corks in their Fifth Avenue penthouse suites because they know they’re dealing with an audience that can’t walk away from its weekly football fix” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 9/26). In Boston, Steve Buckley writes, “As for all the 'bad publicity' the NFL is getting, so what? Is anybody talking any baseball these days on a national scale?” Buckley: “All anyone is talking about these days is football" (BOSTON HERALD, 9/26).
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