On Tuesday, former NFL Network reporter Jim Trotter sued the league, due to the termination of his employment. On Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the case during an interview on ESPN’s First Take.
After Stephen A. Smith read to Goodell the racially-charged quotes attributed in the lawsuit to Bills owner Terry Pegula and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Smith asked Goodell how those allegations make him feel.
“They’re allegations,” Goodell said. “Our job is to make sure that they’re factual. These are not new charges. They’re actually a couple of years old. They’ve been looked into. You’ve heard the strong denials. There’s litigation ongoing now. It will be addressed because these are important issues and we share the same concerns. We want to make sure our workplaces are first class and that means opportunities for everybody. We know the importance of progress in diversity and we’re working very hard at it. Is progress where we want it to be? No, it’s always slower than you want it to be but I’m confident we’re moving in the right direction.”
It’s surprising Goodell said that much. During a Tuesday conference call with reporters aimed at giving the league a victory lap for Week 1 ratings and the performance of the revamped and relocated Sunday Ticket, NFL executive V.P. of communications Jeff Miller repeatedly cited the ongoing litigation as justification to say nothing about the Trotter case — beyond reading the league’s statement, verbatim.
Goodell suggested the league will investigate the alleged statements made by Pegula and Jones, in order to “make sure they’re factual.” But then Goodell said the allegations have “been looked into.”
So what was concluded? That will be learned as the litigation unfolds. And to the extent the league brings in Mary Jo White to do a separate investigation now, don’t expect an independent review, not with the league’s financial interests tied to the outcome.
The NFL’s best play would be to settle with Trotter immediately and then conduct a real investigation of the alleged remarks, with a truly independent and objective investigator.
That won’t happen. The NFL has no real oversight, no real accountability. There’s no one to force the NFL to do anything it doesn’t want to do, and the NFL ultimately is a collection of 31 oligarchs and the CEO of a company owned by shareholders who really don’t own anything beyond a piece of paper.
Trotter has a tiger by the tail. Trotter seems to be determined to pull that tail as hard as he can. The investigation will happen under the auspices of a federal court in Manhattan, with Trotter’s lawyers zealously and doggedly searching for the truth.
The best news is that the league allowed a conspicuous donut hole to exist in Trotter’s contract. There’s no arbitration clause, no automatic path to the league’s secret, rigged, kangaroo court.
So the truth will come out. There will be accountability for the NFL.
Unless the NFL makes Trotter an offer he won’t refuse.
Ultimately, Trotter might have to ponder a massive financial offer that will be very hard to decline. If the league is smart, every team will kick in a million, the Bills and Cowboys will pony up $5 million each, and Trotter will be offered $40 million to abandon a golden opportunity to expose the ugly underbelly of Big Shield.
Christine Lake is a sports fanatic who lives and breathes athletics. With an extensive background in sports journalism, he covers everything from major league championships to grassroots sports events. When she’s not on the field or at the stadium, you’ll find Christine coaching youth sports teams.