A Bad Place Full Of Bad Jerks

How Close did ESPN and Deadspin Come to Taking Down Roger Goodell?

It's not often that the motives of the Worldwide Leader and Gawker Media dovetail. But for a few glorious weeks in September, ESPN and Deadspin united around a good cause. Both had good reasons to want Roger The Not-So-Artful Dodger gone.

ESPN was broadcasting its first ever NFL playoff game in 2015. Some experts were already raising concerns about the NFL's viability some X years down the road due to mismanaging the concussion crisis. A bad commissioner could make that X number quite small and ruin ESPN's investment. It would be a fine journey indeed for ESPN, from commenting on the major leagues to broadcasting content to having a major say in who runs them. As for Deadspin, any sports figure with authoritarian inclinations and poor ability to relate to the common fan is an appropriate enemy.

Why did they fail? The abbreviated answer is that ESPN dropped out and Deadspin was shut out. On Friday, September 19th, Outside the Lines broadcast a damaging story on the Baltimore Ravens role in the Ray Rice scandal. If that story hits properly, the next step is to take on Roger Goodell directly. Instead, the story failed so badly that Deadspin ran an article on Wednesday September 24th showing how many edits were made to fix it.


Coincidentally on the very same day, September 24th, ESPN suspends Bill Simmons for 3 weeks for Goodell-related comments on his podcast. The other ESPN personalities fall in line, and ESPN's attempted revolt is over as soon as it started. Deadspin thus loses the investigative power of ESPN as a partner in taking down Goodell.

As for Deadspin, Goodell disappeared from public eye. A weakness of Deadspin is its lack of investigative muscle. If Goodell does nothing, Deadspin has difficulty keeping the heat on Goodell, because it is more a site built to react to news rather than creating it. The Roger Goodell tag on Deadspin has 30 articles for September. Guess how many stories are tagged Roger Goodell from September 25th until the end of October. The answer is 2.

Thus, the coup to take down Roger Goodell died on September 24th-25th. If that OTL story didn't face credibility issues...if Bill Simmons and thus Grantland wasn't defanged for 3 weeks...if Deadspin had more investigative capability...things might have turned out differently.


Final thoughts: Did Adrian Peterson save Roger Goodell? The media was able to portray Roger Goodell as enabling abusers. The flaw, however, is that Goodell was able to overcome that portrayal by being tone-deaf tough on Adrian Peterson, the one thing he does well. By spending so much time hammering Goodell for not being tough enough, the media unfortunately left the door open for Goodell to be more strict, not less. Goodell could thus rehab his reputation by using his Ginger Hammer vindictively, not haphazardly. Pity the player, and that most fans couldn't find more compassion or understanding for arbitrarily punished, harshly concussed, selectively fined millionaires.

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