They got rid of Jim Trotter. They moved the Commissioner’s annual Super Bowl press conference to Monday — and made it invite-only. They thought they did everything they could to protect Roger Goodell. They thought wrong.
Despite its best efforts to baby a 64-year-old grown man who earns north of $63 million annually — and just signed an extension — the NFL might have finally realized that there’s nothing they can do to prevent Black journalists from pressing Goodell about NFL Media’s incredible lack of diversity — when it comes to hiring Black people for a company that exclusively covers a majority Black league.
“As of this press conference, the NFL Media newsroom still employs zero Black managers, zero Black copy editors, zero full-time Black employees on the news desk, and your only full-time Black employee, Larry Campbell, passed away over the weekend,” said Darren Smith of KLKC Radio to Goodell on Monday. “How does knowing this sit well with you, and after two years of being asked this question, why has there not been any change or any hirings in that area?”
Smith picked up where Trotter left off, as Trotter asked Goodell a similar question the past two years. NFL Media decided not to renew Trotter’s contract. In return, he filed a 53-page racial discrimination/retaliation lawsuit against the league.
“Well, I disagree completely that there hasn’t been any change,” Goodell replied. “I’m happy to get your data and share it with our people and make sure that we get an answer for you. I don’t have all the data. I will tell you that [for] the first time, 51 percent of our employees across the league, across the network, across all of our media platforms, not including players, are either people of color or women.”
Before we get to the rest of Goodell’s quote, we need to take a pause. Because that last line is what people/companies who operate like Goodell and the NFL like to do. The question was about Black people, asked by a Black person, during Black History Month. Goodell replied with figures about “people of color” and “women.” This isn’t about minorities. It’s strictly about Black people, and not the ones like Mike Tirico, who claim they’re Italian, or Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, who identifies as “human.”
Now, let’s get back to Goodell’s quote, in which he groups everybody who isn’t a white man into one pile.
“First time ever. So progress is being made,” he said. “And there are areas where we still need to work and we still need to improve, whether it’s offensive assistants or maybe people within our media newsroom. We will continue to do that, and make significant progress, as we have.”
The beauty of what Smith did on Monday wasn’t solely due to him picking up the baton for Trotter, it was also because somebody outside of the NFL Media Group, who can’t magically have their contract not renewed, pressed Goodell. And if Smith isn’t invited back to next year’s press conference, we’ll know why.
“(Roger Goodell) simply doesn’t care or doesn’t want to know. The data is what it is: the NFL newsroom has zero Black managers, zero Black copy editors, and zero full-time Black employees on the news desk. Those are facts. Nothing he says changes that,” Trotter posted on X. “Another fact, (Goodell) refuses to acknowledge: outside of the reporters in the NFL newsroom, there are ZERO full-time Black employees. In a league whose player population is majority Black. Let that marinate for a minute. I didn’t ask (Smith) to pose that question, but I thank him for challenging (Goodell) and seeking to have Goodell’s actions reflect his words.”
Smith responded with his own post: “Sure didn’t, but I’ll ask it again next year and every year until changes are made. You matter to me Mr. Trotter, and your issues matter to me as well and to a number of people.”
Throughout the rest of the week, the league will be hosting a ton of official events, and many of them are simply to check a box off on the diversity quota. On Wednesday, they’re even hosting their third annual “Pride Night,” despite the league’s ugly history when it comes to handling gay players, and not currently having an openly gay player on a roster. You would think that at some point the NFL would realize that it’s easier being diverse than it is faking it.
The NFL likes to make things harder for itself. It’s why the press conference was filled with questions about gambling and sports betting when the league was once staunchly against it until laws changed and the money started rolling in, as Las Vegas was given a Super Bowl. And on Monday, for the third year in a row, Goodell looked like an incompetent fool on stage. It doesn’t have to keep being this way. But, as long as Goodell and the NFL continue to keep running from accountability, Black journalists will keep exposing them for the whole world to see.