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Volume 22 No. 32
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Path to the NFL led through White House, media

Joe Lockhart worked as White House press secretary from 1998 to 2000, a period during which he served as the mouthpiece for the administration during President Clinton’s impeachment. His career also includes stops at Facebook (as vice president of global communications) and with ABC, CNN and Sky Television News in Europe. He’s had his own political consultancy, as well.

Joe Lockhart gets a hug from President Bill Clinton at Lockhart’s last press briefing as White House press secretary in 2000.
Photo by: AP IMAGES
Since January, he’s been in charge of the NFL’s PR shop, as the league’s executive vice president of communications. He recently moved to New York with his wife and 15-month-old child after 38 years in Washington, D.C., and six years in London.

SportsBusiness Journal asked him about the first few months on the job.

On if the NFL response to The New York Times for its story linking the league to the tobacco industry means a bolder PR strategy for the league: It is basically assumed that it is a piece that meets The New York Times’ standards, so the response is reflective of the NFL strategy on the news. Others will decide whether this is more aggressive, less aggressive, but to me, it focuses on the wrong thing. … It is fair to say the response reflects two things. One is my experience, which is well-known. The second is, you know, and what I am trying to keep the focus on, is the egregious nature of the story.

On The New York Times overall: I believe it is still probably the singular most important newspaper in the country, maybe the world.

On PR today: If you are a big institution — the government, NFL, big Wall Street firms — everyone knows who you are. It used to be because everyone knew who you are, it was somewhat reactive. Now, it is very proactive.

On Commissioner Roger Goodell and what’s considered generally a poor public image: I think it comes with the job, being the commissioner of the most popular sport.