Sports commissioners, who must represent their leagues’ business interests, tend to be unpopular folks, and the NFL’s Roger Goodell is no exception.
So, naturally, he shouldn’t have expected Reddit to play nice with him when he came for a live interview—or an AMA, short for “ask me anything”—Monday.
Football is still the most popular sport in America, and considering r/NFL, a section on the social news site devoted to the league, has over 130,000 subscribers, far more than any other sports subreddit, it’s clearly Reddit’s favorite sport as well. But Goodell’s already-low standing dipped even further in the 2012 season, marred by the referee lockout and the New Orleans Saints’ penalization for offering bounties to defensive players who injure their opponents.
While Goodell took a number of tough questions presented to him, many users complained that his answers felt canned, or that he didn’t really address the issues. Goodell ignored the two most popular threads. The biggest, from AnonyWisdom, criticized how the commissioner handled the referee lockout, especially considering how much Goodell makes:
With your recent 5-year salary contract ending with $20 million annually, and referee annual salary contracts after the negations this year upping only $55,000 annually. (Max after 6 years) My question is how much more will we let money compromise the integrity of the game, and should we automatically expect another referee lockout in 2019 when you try more stiff-arm contract negotiations?
Here’s a sampling of his actual answers. All of the following received more downvotes than upvotes.
With the record profits of the NFL, what do you say to the thousands of elderly and disabled fans who are physically unable to attend games but who still are punished with television blackouts, particularly when economists agree blackouts don’t significantly increase ticket sales? (MannFan)
The blackout rule has served us well for several decades. In the 70s, we averaged 50% of our games blacked out. In the 80s, 40% of our games were blacked out. In the 90s, 30% of our games were blacked out. The past two seasons, it has been around 6%. We continue to be the only league with our games on free television, so that everyone can see them. This is the balance between having full stadiums with a first class in-stadium experience and having our games on free television.
Do you believe you mishandled the Bountygate investigation in any way?
We removed bounties from the game. Bounties won’t be part of football. That’s good for everyone involved.
In the future, I hope that everyone–commissioners, coaches, players and the union–will work better collectively to ensure the safety of the game and enforcement of our rules. The safety of our game is a shared responsibility.
It was announced today that you have a 39% approval rating amongst NFL players. Why do you believe your rating is so low, and are you planning on focusing more on issues important to the players given this news? (mrbananagrabber1)
I continually try to focus on issues that benefit the NFL in the long term, including, and most especially, our players. I truly respect our players and get tremendous feedback from them. They help us make better decisions. I look forward to working more closely with them in the future.
Dear Commissioner. I was curious about what you thought on the role of traumatic injury in the NFL, and the dichotomy between making the game safer versus giving the fans the hard hits and satiated bloodlust they so clearly desire. It seems to me that a lot of the popularity of the game boils down to the fact that there is that risk of injury, so I guess what I’m essentially asking is how are you going to balance that going forward without people feeling like you’re never going to give them up, or never going to let them down? (Loate)
Goodell didn’t take the bait. Instead, he responded:
The game of football has always been tough and always will be. Even before the NFL was founded, President Teddy Roosevelt called the college presidents in to make sure that the safety issues of the game were addressed since there had been 17 deaths in 1905 alone. From there came the first and ten, forward pass and the inception of the NCAA. Since then, the game has flourished while sticking to the fundamentals of fair and competitive football. Our football coaches and executives wanted to bring the game back to the fundamentals of tackling and blocking. We have seen some of the best NFL football in our history during this season’s playoffs. Hope we finish with another great one on Sunday.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons