The Washington Post
Snyder only got a slap on the wrist from Goodell. That’s not shocking.
I’ve been trying to figure out for a while who NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is in the whole Washington Football Team/daniel Snyder mess.
It finally came to me the other day: He’s Inspector Louis Renault, the notoriously corrupt French police captain in “Casablanca” who piously pronounces himself “shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on” at Rick’s Café Américain — right before one of Rick’s employees presents him with his winnings.
That’s Goodell, who was similarly shocked, shocked to learn that Snyder cultivated what the NFL described as a “very toxic” and
“highly unprofessional” workplace culture. Then, after fining Snyder the equivalent of a speeding ticket — $10 million for a man whose franchise is worth an estimated $4.2 billion — Goodell walked out the door with his winnings: the approximately $40 million a year the NFL’S 32 owners pay him to shove issues under the rug with platitudes and a big smile.
Once, Goodell was Clint Eastwood, the new sheriff in town who was going to clean up the NFL after the laissez-faire commissionership of Paul Tagliabue. Then, beginning with the Ray Rice assault incident, he became Barney Fife, the bumbling Andy Griffith deputy who couldn’t figure out how to load a gun, much less shoot one.
He finally settled on being Renault. He’s always shocked, shocked — but to actually do anything about what’s shocking? Not his style.
When Colin Kaepernick was blackballed in 2017 after starting the pregame protests in 2016, Goodell was nowhere to be found. More than three years later, he admitted that the league should have listened to what the quarterback was saying. Of course, by then, Kaepernick’s career was over.
After the murder of George Floyd, Goodell allowed NFL teams to use phrases such as “End Racism” on fields and strengthened the Rooney Rule to give Black coaches and frontoffice executives a better chance to actually get jobs as general managers and head coaches — and, for that matter, coordinators.
The result? The number of Black NFL head coaches went from three in 2020 . . . to three in 2021. Anthony Lynn was fired after his Los Angeles Chargers won their last four games with a rookie at quarterback, and David Culley was hired in Houston.
Ozzie Newsome, the NFL’S first Black general manager, who won two Super Bowls leading the Baltimore Ravens, tells a story about going to a Pop Warner League tryout in 1970, when he was 14.
“I instinctively walked over to the quarterbacks when they told us to spread out by position,” he said. “I always played quarterback in the schoolyard because I was the best player. I looked, and all the other guys were White. I said to myself, ‘No way they’re letting you play quarterback.’ So I walked over to the wide receivers.”
Which turned out fine — Newsome is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a pass catcher. But decades later, he understands that football — like all pro sports — is still run by White men. “It’s 50 years later,” he said. “There’s been huge progress made. Look at all the talented Black quarterbacks there are in the league. But I still think you have to be twice as good — as a quarterback, as a coach, as an executive — to get where you want to go.”
How many NFL owners are Black? It’s a round number.
This summer, “Hard Knocks” — which once was worth watching but now has more than run its course — focused on the Dallas Cowboys. The five episodes could easily have been produced by the Cowboys’ public relations department — which in a sense they were, because HBO has to work with NFL
Films on the final product.
Owner Jerry Jones was portrayed as an avuncular uncle, beloved by all — including fans. Even scenes where players were being cut were lovefests.
Most importantly, “Hard Knocks” didn’t find time to mention that the Cowboys have never had a Black head coach or a Black GM. Jones is the GM, with son Stephen the heir apparent. Do the Cowboys have any Black coordinators? Nope.
This is how the NFL does business; it lets its various TV partners sell the idea that football is “America’s Sport” while whitewashing any unpleasantness. All we heard Sunday night during the Rams-bears game was how incredible the Rams’ new stadium is — for $5.5 billion, it better be. Same thing on Monday night in Las Vegas, where the new stadium cost a mere $2 billion or so.
America’s billion-dollar love affair with football is why Snyder was allowed to remain as Washington’s owner. The league’s investigation — which only came after The Washington Post revealed what it was like to be a woman and work for Snyder’s team — was a sham from the beginning. At first, the NFL allowed Snyder to hire a law firm to investigate charges against him and his team. The NFL eventually stepped in, but the tone had already been set.
The NFL wouldn’t even allow Beth Wilkinson, the lawyer who led the investigation, to file a written report. There were two reasons for this: to give Goodell/ Renault plausible deniability and to make sure there was no paper trail that could be leaked.
Instead, the league announced it was shocked by the “very toxic” culture, pointed an angry finger at Snyder and said, “If you do this again, we’re going to get mad.”
The $10 million fine was nothing to Snyder — cash or check? — and the announcement that he was going to “concentrate on a new stadium plan and other matters” rather than the day-to-day running of the team was and is laughable. Taking his place, at least publicly? His wife, Tanya.
Last week, the team pushed her forward as the team’s new front person, handpicking ESPN — one of those TV “partners” — and Adam Schefter’s podcast for her coming-out party. Schefter characteristically tossed one softball after another at Snyder. Remarkably, she swung at and missed a number of them.
When Schefter tossed a hanging curve after Tanya Snyder said all that had gone on “put a lump” in her throat, she talked about her own family. “I think it’s just the pain from my family, from my children,” she said. “And just a lot of tough times that we’ve gone through. And, just as you know, the media. Everybody’s going to say whatever.”
Yeah, whatever. This newspaper accurately reported in great detail about the culture Snyder and his minions created and the impact that had on the franchise’s female employees. No one has produced any evidence that every word wasn’t true. But the poor Snyder family!
No doubt Roger Goodell is shocked, shocked that the sham in Ashburn goes on and on and on. But hey, let’s celebrate! Daniel Snyder, of course, was back in his stadium Sunday, not missing a single game despite an investigation that found, according to the NFL, a workplace environment in which “bullying and intimidation frequently took place,” in which “many described the culture as one of fear” and in which “ownership and senior management paid little or no attention to these issues.” He’ll no doubt be back Thursday night, when his team plays at home on national television.
But hey, those two new stadiums look great.