NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had a rough week last week. And he didn’t start this one any better.
He apparently had reservations to crack a bottle of champagne on the bow of the latest NFL luxury ship, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers.
Broadly defined, league officials have consistently done the opposite of what they should have done, from the start. They neither obtained all the facts, nor released all the facts. They apparently covered up, or did not communicate internally, that they had the full elevator video five weeks before they said they saw it for the first time. They may have even lied about what Rice told Goodell when they met about Rice’s one-punch knockout of Janay Palmer. And, they rushed to judgment, weakly.
Now, when he should be out front, speaking to media, answering questions to the best of his ability — he’s a no-show, bunkering down and avoiding the public. Bad, bad, bad.
There are legalities here, but Goodell’s appointment of former FBI director Robert S. Mueller to investigate the whole Rice scandal is no reason to go silent. This isn’t a grand jury, a lawsuit or a criminal case — at least not yet. Hiding is never acceptable. It reeks of guilt.
This is especially true when Ray Rice is not the only issue he should address. Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson faces an indictment in Texas for using a switch to discipline his 4-year-old son. Peterson didn’t play Sunday and may not play for the Vikings again. ESPN‘s Cris Carter and others ripped the NFL on that too, but Goodell wasn’t around to respond.
Goodell’s a smart, capable attorney. He communicates far more vulnerability than he realistically faces by ducking. He prolongs the story. The Huffington Post’s lead headline this morning was: Mr. Football Goes Into Hiding. Are you kidding me?
Airplanes towed banners over some NFL stadiums Sunday, calling for Goodell’s job. In the absence of a sincere, personal, aggressive and informative response from Goodell, that wish may come true.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.