Goodell Letter On Player Safety Seen As Preemptive Strike To "Frontline" Documentary
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday in an open letter to fans outlined the advances the league has made in recent years regarding player safety, but it posed the question of whether the letter was "an innocent and unprovoked state-of-the-league notice to supporters or merely a timely move to soften reaction to a pair of approaching threats to the NFL brand," according to Babband & Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. With a "Frontline" documentary and related book coming out on Tuesday that examine the league's treatment of player head trauma, "it was easy to make the connection" that Goodell’s letter was a "preemptive measure five days before the next wave of criticism." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said that Goodell’s open letter was "'planned independently' of the forthcoming projects and compelled by no outside factor." Aiello in an e-mail wrote, "It is part of regular communication that the commissioner has with fans." But Babband & Maske write "suspicions exist, particularly after ESPN announced in August it was ending a collaborative agreement with PBS to produce and market" the documentary. Sports Business Group President David Carter said that Goodell's letter "might have targeted fans -- but that it was clear he was speaking to a larger audience" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/4). ESPN Radio's Mike Greenberg said, "I do believe certainly that there were enormous mistakes made by the National Football League over the years, overlooking these problems. I can't sit here and tell you ... that there was a cover-up there. I believe sincerely right now that Roger Goodell and the people running the sport are sincere in their efforts to make the game safer." Greenberg said of the rule changes and safety initiatives, "If you don’t make the game intrinsically safer, you have not just concern about your past but a concern about your future" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 10/4).
PLAYER DISTRUST: Texans S Ed Reed said of the NFL's handling of the concussion issue, "The business of football is very shady. The fact that they would withhold information is bad. The fact that our (collective bargaining agreement) would not want that information, the fact that our older players would take money instead of getting that information is bad. The business of football, NFL football, is shady. Now we can't get that information anymore? It's just swept under the rug? That's bad." ESPN.com's Tania Ganguli noted Reed "expressed both outrage and a lack of surprise." Texans RB Arian Foster also is "generally skeptical about the NFL's commitment to player safety, despite the league's public emphasis on the matter." Foster: "I think the league kind of cloaks their wanting to make the league safe, though. If you want to make the league safe, cut out 'Thursday Night Football.' Do something like that. Don't have guys wear pads on their legs. That's not making anybody safe. It's more like a political move that they try to make things safe" (ESPN.com, 10/3).
DOES LEAGUE REALLY CARE? In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes under the header, "NFL More And More A Glutton For Profit." The NFL "knows Americans are incurable football addicts." Weekly games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday are a "head slap against player health and a cheap shot at quality control." The Eagles opening the season with three games in 11 days is "stupid." Kiszla writes if the NFL "actually gave a hoot about players safety," the possibility of playing an 18-game regular season "would never be mentioned again" (DENVER POST, 10/4).