If an elephant is in the room, you have two choices: address it or ignore it. When you’re the NFL, you have a third one: Remove it.
In an unprecedented move that feels like it’s something straight out of Donald Trump’s playbook, Roger Goodell and the NFL have moved the commissioner’s annual Super Bowl press conference to Monday — when press attendance is at its lowest — and made the event invite-only, according to a report from Mike Florio.
“If you want to attend Commissioner Roger Goodell’s Super Bowl press conference, you’d better get to Las Vegas earlier. And you’d better hope for an invitation,” Florio wrote on Thursday night for NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk. “This year, the NFL is moving the Goodell press availability to Monday. For years, it was on Friday of Super Bowl week, when maximum media were in town — and they were present for the shotgun-style Q&A. Several years ago, or longer, it moved to Wednesday. Now, it’s moving to Monday. It’s also an invitation-only event. I did not get an invitation.”
When the NFL released the schedule on Thursday, the press conference was missing from the day’s events on Thursday and Friday as usual. Deadspin reached out to the league for comment. As of publication, the league has yet to respond.
This leads me to believe one thing — Jim Trotter has Roger Goodell shook.
Last year, NFL Media didn’t renew Trotter’s contract after he grilled Goodell about the league’s lackluster diversity efforts at consecutive Super Bowl press conferences. But while Trotter is gone, the league still sucks at diversity, despite the recent hiring of three Black head coaches. The question was going to be if anybody was going to step up and ask about it next week. That surely won’t be the case now.
“Why does the NFL and its owners have such a difficult time, at the highest levels, hiring Black people into decision-making positions?” Trotter asked Goodell at the Super Bowl in 2022.
“And yet a year later, nothing has changed,” Trotter said last year to Goodell. “James Baldwin once said, ‘I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do.”
The first time, Goodell fumbled through an answer and placed blame elsewhere. The following year he did the same, even with a whole year to prepare for a question about an issue that’s been around for decades.
Weeks later, Trotter was out of a job. Last September, he filed a 53-page racial discrimination/retaliation lawsuit against the NFL that reads like the league’s playbook on how to mistreat Black people. “The NFL has claimed it wants to be held accountable regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Trotter. “I tried to do so, and it cost me my job. I’m filing this lawsuit because I can’t complain about things that are wrong if I’m unwilling to fight for what is right.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones once said, “If Blacks feel some kind of way, they should buy their own team, and hire who they want to hire.” It also claims that Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula said, “If the Black players don’t like it here, they should go back to Africa and see how bad it is,” about player protests against racial injustices. Jones and Pegula denied it in the same way that Goodell and NFL Media have denied that Trotter’s questions are why he wasn’t retained.
No one ever admits to racism, remember that. And when the people who would probably ask about it more than likely haven’t been invited to the open forum, we’re left with only one likely reason — fear of accountability.
As of now, the league is trying to get Trotter’s lawsuit dismissed. They hired Loretta Lynch — the first Black woman to serve as U.S. Attorney General — to defend them. The NFL also hired for Brian Flores’ case that’s headed to court soon. When wealthy white people are accused of doing something racial, sometimes they get a Black person to defend them/be on the other side. It’s why we know who Chris Darden is.
The NFL managed to get the elephant out of the room, but the mess hasn’t been removed, it’s only gotten messier. Now we have to wait and see if anybody — who the league wanted there — will ask Roger Goodell what went into this decision and why. Don’t be shocked if reporters don’t touch the subject, especially since the majority of the media in the room will be people who aren’t “diverse.” Which, in the end, is all Jim Trotter was asking about.