As Goodell Reinstates Payton, Media Examines Which Of The Two Was Most Unfairly Victimized
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's decision yesterday to reinstate Saints coach Sean Payton following a season-long suspension for the team's bounty scandal was "another important step in bringing closure to one of the most scandalous episodes in league history," according to Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY. While some fans "might forgive," they also "won't forget anytime soon." That the reinstatement "came two weeks early was a nice olive branch for Goodell to extend as part of the healing process -- and a shrewd way to erase a distraction" prior to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Goodell "undoubtedly was swayed by the notion that next-season began for the Saints at least two weeks ago, when the 2012 season ended" (USA TODAY, 1/23). SI.com's Peter King reported Goodell and Payton "met for four hours on Monday afternoon, and it was totally under the radar until the announcement" yesterday that Payton had been "reinstated with full privileges and authority to run Saints business immediately." Payton has "never been one to be schmoozy with muckety-mucks, and I don't expect that to happen now." King: "I am sure he'll always feel Goodell was way over the top in his discipline of the Saints, and him. But he knows how to be political. You can bet in his meeting with Goodell he emphasized nothing like a bounty program or a pay-for-performance system would ever happen with the Saints again" (SI.com, 1/22). ESPN's Ed Werder said the “league insists it’s coincidental" the reinstatement comes as Goodell and other league execs "will soon be travelling to a very hostile environment in New Orleans for the Super Bowl.” Werder: “Basically, they say that the season is over, that it’s time for preparations for next season to begin, and so they’ve allowed Sean Payton to be reinstated prematurely” ("NFL Live," ESPN, 1/22).
NOTHING MORE THAN A PR MOVE? NBC Sports Network’s Ross Tucker asked, “How can anybody look at this as anything other than a PR move by the NFL to try and get ahead of this?” (“NBC Sports Talk,” NBCSN, 1/22). ESPN's Tim Hasselbeck said he was not surprised by Payton’s reinstatement because the NFL “has been just so PR-conscious, and that’s exactly what’s going on” (“NFL 32,” ESPN2, 1/22). Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said getting Payton reinstated "before the NFL goes down to New Orleans for the Super Bowl was critical." Florio: "It still won’t be friendly, but it won’t be as bad as it would have been if Payton’s status was still undecided" ("PFT," NBCSN, 1/22). ESPN's John Clayton noted Goodell did not want the suspension to be a “distraction” during the Super Bowl. Clayton: “There was no reason to try to continue to have Sean Payton and the fans be angry about not having Sean Payton back” ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 1/22). But in New Orleans, Mike Triplett writes the decision "reeked of 'too little, too late.'" Triplett: "Slicing two weeks off of Payton's sentence certainly won't appease the Saints' fan base. So all of those suggestions that Goodell did this the week before Super Bowl 2013 comes to town to curry favor with the locals seem a bit silly" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/23).
FORGETTING ABOUT THE PAST: In New Orleans, Jeff Duncan asks, "Have people forgotten all of the good Goodell did for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina?" SMG Senior VP/Stadiums & Arenas Doug Thornton, who manages the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, said, "Roger was with us when it counted. He worked and sweated here. People don't realize how granular he was down here. He was in the weeds with us." Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said, "He was a major player in executing what we had decided was going to be the policy to keep the Saints in New Orleans, in Louisiana and in the Gulf Coast region. He was the guy who managed the process." Duncan writes, "If anything, New Orleans owes Goodell a thank you" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/23). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said Goodell “worked relentlessly” to keep the Saints in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Wilbon: “Without Roger Goodell, the Super Bowl could be played in San Antonio right now, and people there should know this.” ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said to Wilbon, “You are 100% right, and it will have no effect because Roger Goodell killed the Saints this year” ("PTI,” ESPN, 1/22). CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto noted Goodell "worked hard to keep the team from San Antonio in the aftermath of the hurricane, but that was yesterday’s news." New Orleans is "back in the Super Bowl rotation for the first time [in] 11 years because of that, and that is yesterday’s news as well" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 1/22).
STICKING IT TO GOODELL: In a special to the N.Y. POST, Peter Finney Jr. reports Saints fan Robert Wilson following the Saints' 0-4 start to the season decided to make "10-inch voodoo dolls with a likeness of Goodell and five handy stick pins." Sales for the voodoo dolls are "approaching 3,000 at $15.99 apiece." Wilson said, "We can't make enough to meet the demand. It's just fun" (N.Y. POST, 1/23). In N.Y., Gary Myers notes it may be "coincidence, but Goodell didn’t attend one Saints home game this season." It probably was a "good idea to limit his trips to New Orleans to just the one that he can’t miss" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/23).