Feb 15, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media during the NBA All Star Game commissioner press conference at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Roger Goodell Could Learn From Silver


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?

Tags: Adam Silver Kansas City Chiefs Roger Goodell

  • Stacy D. Smith

    Goodell’s always struck me as the type to want to carve out his own legacy as commissioner even at the expense of the game. His only job, in my view, was to be a “game manager” and keep the NFL on top. Instead he’s pursued a bunch of pointless endeavors like expanding the game’s international appeal and the regular season. He’s like the handlers of the Madden video game franchise. Always trying to fix what isn’t broken.

    • natasha2marie

      Good point. I’d also go so far as to say those minor, irritating changes he’s making more frequently serve to distract us from the looming CTE conversation. The NFL is trying to delay it, but it’s coming and it won’t be pretty when it finally breaks.

      • berttheclock

        I wonder how much of that 140 M had to do with Goodell holding down the recent settlement of $765 M in that CTE case. The US District Judge, Anita B Brody, a President George Herbert Walker Bush appointee, refused to agree with the award as she said “The money wouldn’t adequately compensate the nearly 20 thousand men not included in the suit.”

  • berttheclock

    First of all, yes, Silver stepped up to the plate, but, where was he prodding his former boss, David Stern, into taking action against Sterilng in 2005 when reports of his blatent racism and ageism were rampant about his dealings with renters at his LA properties? He only wanted non-smelling pristine individuals to be renters in his hovels and would do little to fix any problems, but, loved to have his managers evict those smelly complaining folks. Stern did nothing to curb those problems, as he far more interested in fixing the dress code for NBA players.

    Unfortunately, commissioners are bought and paid for by the league owners and play to that power. When you have Goodell making over $140 M, do you really think he is going to go against any owner such as Snyder? All Goodell really does is work on his self made image of himself.

  • Deadmeat

    You don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Silver only did something, because there was a revolt on his hands.
    Let’s get back to reality. What would you do for 140 mil? Goodell is paid to have ONLY the best interest of the owners. He ONLY gets paid to make more money for the owners. The owners OWN him. Making the game safer, is only to prevent future lawsuits. So the owners can make more money. Really. What would you do for 140 mil? My morals would change, my way of thinking would change. What would you do?

    • natasha2marie

      Sure, there was a revolt on Silver’s hands, but the reality is that he could have responded in a weaker manner. Adam Silver didn’t have to issue a lifetime ban and maximum fine, he didn’t have to pursue a vote to force Sterling to sell. But he did, and that’s the difference.

      That’s why this coming year will be interesting. We’ll see how Goodell deals with Irsay, and how he responds to the renewed calls for a team name change for Washington.

      • Deadmeat

        I bet the NBA will lose the lawsuit that is to come, or settle out of court.. I just don’t see how you can take a 800m organization away, for something said in private. Especially since he didn’t go on a racial rant like Cooper did, who got a slap on the wrist. I believe he is a racist, but he did this in the privacy of his own home. I just think they went to extreme on the punishment.
        I doubt the name change will ever happen, and Irsay will get a slap on the wrist.
        Just my opinion,

      • calciomoti

        I thought they could only vote to terminate the franchise. From everything I’ve read from actual reporters who actually quote the NBA bylaws and contract, there needs to be a 75% agreement from owners only (not magic or jordan or the king of retards Barkley) in order to terminate a franchise from the league. Which then would give the league some leverage when asking sterling to sell.

        Seriously every person in America should be fired and fined $1,000,000 and a lifetime ban from the ability to work in their chosen profession for all the bullshit they have said in the privacy of their own homes.

        Silver and Good ell are slick talkers and are only doing what the owners are telling them to do…

  • Randall Miller

    Natasha….very well done. Stern who too influenced by his salary, and Good-dull I think has been out of control for quite a while as his salary dictates. Mr. Irsay’s situation should have been dealt with much sooner….but we are still waiting. ( just like the draft which should have been last week!)

    • Ben Nielsen

      Heh. “Good-dull.”

  • berttheclock

    Overusing exclamation points? Ah, you studied under “Elaine” at the Seinfeld School of Journalism.

    • natasha2marie

      I try to keep it in check. It’s difficult sometimes.

  • Tyler Alexander

    I would prefer an 18 game season… then play every team in the conference minus one and play one nfc division each year. That way the best teams get in and a 9-7 team doesn’t end up hosting playoff games they don’t deserve. There’s probably lots of reasons it won’t work that way but the best teams are not getting in the way it is now.

    • berttheclock

      Injury to players being one of them.

  • tm1946

    Gee, just what I wanted with my daily ration of Chief’s sport info. Thanks, I know we all feel better now.

    • Mdsteinmeyer

      I’m glad someone had the wisdom to say that! I don’t agree with this story in any way and I would prefer to sticking with Chiefs news!

    • berttheclock

      You really must get out of Atchison more. What do expect to see for the next seven days? Really Really Really Hard Hitting Who Should We Pick Threads?. So, live a little and explore the outside world, once in a while.

      • Mdsteinmeyer

        Oh please! If you want to be fair and see bad behavior be punished then we need to hold Millionaire Athletes accountable for bad behavior too. Where does the nonsense start and why should we have to read about the actions of Commissioners? Bad behavior like maybe Bowe should be dealt with BUT players like Him get away with bad behavior all the time in this and other leagues! Where and how far do you really want to go with this? There…satisfied? Feel better that you now know how I feel about bad behavior in sports?

  • Mr. ALWAYS RIGHT

    Natasha – STFU about the REDSKINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Polls say 75 of Native Americans aren’t bothered by the name and look at it as a sign of pride and respect. Stop it with this PC crap. Only people that make race an issue in this country anymore are people like you who will never be satisfied. GROW THE HELL UP

    • berttheclock

      John Roberts approves this garbage.

    • Ben Nielsen

      I’d like to see the link to this poll you cite.

  • Mr. ALWAYS RIGHT

    I can see it now. Now that Silver banned Sterling liberal PC nut jobs like you will want any and every one you disagree with banned. REDSKINS is not an offensive name, Fans would love and extra game. You say “polls” but fail to provide a link. That leads me to believe that you are just pulling it out of thin air. Your writing makes you look like someone who dislikes Goodell because he is rich and successful. I am not a big fan of the guy because of some of his decisions. You seem to not like him because he is rich.

    • chefverona

      The fact that you think Redskins is not a racist name makes me think you know nothing about the history of this country. Come on dude, I think you might be pulling your argument from somewhere other than the air.

  • Stan Colbert

    As a journalist I would think you might be a little concerned about a person being penalized financially due to saying or writing something unpopular.
    Those Indian names are terrible, supporting a warrior culture to be respected! Let’s get together at the CASINO over a few drinks and talk about this.

  • trinity

    Since silver has been on the job for only 2 seconds, I think it’s too early to declare him better already. However, I admire the way he dropped the hammer on that monster, sterling. It would be nice if Goodell was as firm. The “punishment” he leveled at the patriots for cheating was laughable.

  • arepre

    Yes please suspend Irsay for a year for a DUI. So is this the precedent going forward then?

    In the NFL they want to ban racial slurs on the field and its a penalize players on the field for it. Its a slap on the wrist. A guy kills animals for entertainment and goes to jail. He paid “his dues” and isn’t suspended for life? Much worse than saying you dislike a certain race of people thats for sure.

    And in the NBA an owner doesn’t say a slur and is suddenly suspended for life. All I know is, Silver needs to hold players on the court more accountable too if he’s going to do this to an owner. It should be an automatic ejection from the game, hefty fine and suspension for remainder of the season. Guys like Ron Artest, Dennis Rodman and Latrell Sprewell never did good things for the image of the NBA and we don’t talk about it now because they aren’t playing.