Adam Silver is a better commissioner than Roger Goodell.
In four-and-a-half minutes, which is almost as long as he has been NBA commissioner, Silver issued swift judgement upon (for-now) LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling. He was clearly emotional during the conference, but that didn’t control his actions or words.
His brevity left nothing to the imagination. There was no PR speak, no cliches. In fact, he didn’t fall into any of the usual trappings of public speaking, like over-explaining himself or dodging questions. He said exactly what he meant and nothing more.
However, if his prepared statement was on point, his composure during the open questions portion was even more brilliant. He was brief and direct. He didn’t deflect the reporters’ questions, even ones that would have made others squirm. It was honestly refreshing to see a public figure respond like this.
Silver assumed the role of commissioner from David Stern in February 2014. It would appear that the NBA made a stellar choice, and we can only hope that Silver continues to demonstrate this kind of leadership.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been in his position since 2006, so we have a few more examples of his leadership to analyze than Silver. One look at his press conferences shows a man who is comfortable in public. He is a smooth speaker, but frequently says too much.
Let’s take a brief look at a few of his higher-profile decisions and public statements as NFL commissioner. (I’m not going to touch his comments on player safety and his actions to the contrary. That could be its own post.)
On race: He continually skirts the controversy of the Redskins team name. With his responses, he seeks to pacify the public while pandering to Washington team owner Daniel Snyder. Not to worry though, he is “listening” to the criticism. Perhaps after the Sterling situation we will see the NFL finally “listen” a little harder and take a stand against the derogatory team name. Don’t hold your breath though.
On Spygate: Notorious football mastermind Bill Belichick was disciplined for videotaping the New York Jets’ defensive signals. Goodell handed down fines totaling $750,000 to the team and Belichick, and took away a first-round draft pick from the Patriots. Suspension for Belichick was another possible penalty, which Goodell “considered” but ultimately decided against because the fines and lost draft pick were punishment enough. But, Goodell was never going to suspend Belichick, whether he deserved it or not.
On Bountygate: Goodell handed down some of the harshest penalties in sports at that time: lengthy suspensions, maximum fines and loss of draft picks. Classic Goodell, though: he was accused of overstepping his authority; not adhering to the Collective Bargaining Agreement; and finally, even some of the suspensions he issued were overturned, then reinstated, and then overturned once more.
On extending the draft: “Money, money, money. May we have all your money?” New chorus line for the NFL, and Roger Goodell is their lead singer. There’s the possibility that the draft, which originally spanned two days, and currently sits at three days, might now be extended to four days. If you know a sports journalist, ask them how happy they will be if this happens.
On what the fans want: Roger Goodell is out of touch with the fans, and he doesn’t seem to care. He repeatedly mentions how much fans want a longer regular season, when polls clearly indicate otherwise. The players are also resistant to an 18-game season. So, if it’s not the athletes or the fans, who wants those two additional games? One could possibly assume that he is confusing fans with owners.
Let’s see, we’ve got avoidance, cowardice, carelessness, greed and propaganda. Perfect qualities in a commissioner, right? In each of these examples, whether his decision was correct or not, his delivery or motivation was faulty.
Goodell has an interesting test before him, though, that is similar to Silver’s. What to do about Colts owner Jim Irsay? If there is one thing Goodell prides himself on, it’s “protecting the shield” (the NFL logo) — essentially, his actions serve to address any misconduct that lowers the integrity of the game and league. Without a doubt, players who exhibited the same off-the-field behavior as Irsay would definitely be disciplined.
Will Goodell respond to the reckless and dangerous behavior of one of his bosses in a manner consistent with his decisions on player misconduct? Or is this ‘protection’ he loves to reference merely a facade?
We shall see.
The value of a fair commissioner cannot be overstated. Professional sports make for an odd workplace. The players are adults, but the oversight of the leagues is a bit like living under a parent. With the popularity of sports and the 24-hour news cycle, they must also live in the very public eye. Working and living under this dynamic, athletes need to feel like they are being treated justly, and that owners and front offices will be held to the same standards with the same penalties.
Adam Silver delivered this message loud and clear to the league.
I am not saying Silver is perfect; I’m sure he will have some missteps along the way. I am saying that his big moment in the spotlight was a triumph that Goodell would be wise to study.
What do you think, Addicts? How does Roger Goodell stack up to Adam Silver?