NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is speaking here in Las Vegas this weekend. After years of distancing himself and the league from anything connected to the city, he’s now forced into damage control. This is due to the Raiders’ relocation here next season. As Goodell tries to soothe old wounds, let’s not forget his long history of insults hurled our way. Las Vegas deserves a sincere apology before he’s welcomed with open arms by the good citizens of our city.
Roger Goodell, the salaried $45 million-dollar-a-year
hand puppet to 32-team owners man in charge of the NFL is coming to Las Vegas this weekend. He’ll be speaking Friday to the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce You can even attend what’s being promoted as a “fireside chat,” and listen to Goodell, provided you’re willing to fork over $85 for a ticket.
Gee, thanks. But I’ll pass.
I’ve got much better things to do with my money than spend it on a man who owes me, my profession, and my city an apology.
Forced to Swallow His Words
The NFL Commissioner’s previous statements and past stances on all matters pertaining to Las Vegas are entirely on the public record. He and his league have consistently expressed their hostility to the city, the gaming industry, sports gambling professionals, and the tens of millions of spectators who are paying customers of the world’s most profitable professional sports entity.
Let’s be clear. Goodell didn’t evolve on issues important to Las Vegas. He didn’t change his mind about legalized sports gambling. On the contrary, Goodell has been at the forefront of the NFL’s battle to stonewall legalized and regulated sports gambling every step of the way, particularly by fighting state and federal legislation in the courts. With the forces rallied against him and the NFL now insurmountable, he’s been dragged kicking and screaming to a position of surrender, and now must reverse himself.
Two tipping points forced Goodell and the NFL into their hasty retreat:
- First, the Oakland Raiders expressed interest, and eventually intent, in relocating to Las Vegas. The league would have put up a blistering fight had this been proposed years ago. But given that Raiders’ owner Mark Davis desperately wanted out of Oakland, and Las Vegas was so attractive both financially and demographically, there was little the NFL could do without instigating a costly legal battle reminiscent of patriarch Al Davis’ lengthy disputes with the league a generation earlier. The NFL simply couldn’t win. Not in the courts. Not in public opinion. So, they caved.
- Second, public attitudes toward sports gambling have changed. Drastically so. While gambling has fueled public interest in spectator sports for decades, it’s now legal and open in an increasing number of states. Nevada was once an outlier, even a pariah when it came to sports gambling. Now, it’s the national bellwether and, eventually, will be the norm. Even the crusty old NFL knows sports gambling is here to stay, and there’s nothing they can do about it. As with the Raiders’ situation, they caved.
Welcome to Las Vegas, Commish! Having fun yet?
What Goodell Said vs. What the NFL Did
In Goodell’s defense, all previous NFL commissioners dating back to the days of the late Pete Rozelle have been anti-Las Vegas and against legalized sports gambling.
This animosity exploded into a war in 2003 when the NFL stepped in and declined a commercial that was to run during a Super Bowl telecast. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau sought to run a 30-second advertisement promoting the city’s tourism. The NFL intervened and said absolutely not.
Adding insult to injury, the league informed the city not to even bother submitting an alternative ad — not then, nor in the future. It was off the table. Las Vegas was completely dead to the NFL. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was so incensed, he turned to national media and went on a rampage. He attacked the NFL, and even threatened to sue.
The cold war between the NFL and Las Vegas lasted until 2012. That’s when the league saw its coveted TV ratings begin to flatten, and then decline, as interactive spectator sports exploded in popularity. Eager to get in on the action and appeal to younger viewers, many owners openly courted fantasy football sites, including Draft Kings and Fan Duel. Within a year, the pseudo-gambling sites would be bombarding NFL games with a flurry of advertisements.
Oh yes, money changed everything. The twisted gymnastics of Goodell’s sudden “change of heart” are worthy of a gold medal. He tried to explain that fantasy football wasn’t gambling at all. His public statements and the league’s position on fantasy sports and gambling — insisting they weren’t essentially one and the same — were laughable. Mainstream media even began calling out the NFL’s flagrant hypocrisy.
Nonetheless, Goodell and the NFL didn’t change their stance on gambling. Sure, they flip-flopped and waffled. They said sports gambling was bad. They insisted fantasy football, in which they now had a vested financial interest, was good. But it’s always been about money.
We Get It, Goodell Doesn’t Like Gambling
Leading from behind since Day 1 of his tenure, the NFL Commissioner has yet to demonstrate a single shred of vision for his league or the fans.
Always slow to respond to every controversy — from the despicable way the NFL denied that CTE was real … to atrocious officiating … to a lengthy scandal sheet of off-the-field legal problems for players (and at least one notable owner) — Goodell doesn’t seem to act on much of anything. He always reacts. Often, too little, too late.
Hence, Goodell’s mini-goodwill tour is entirely consistent with how he runs the league. He’s not a leader. He’s a follower. And he’s following the money all the way to Las Vegas.
Incredibly, Goodell remains vociferously opposed to any association with sports gambling. He told the Las Vegas Sun:
“Society, in general, has a little bit of a change with respect to gambling in general,” Goodell said. “We’ve seen that. I think we still strongly oppose legalized sports gambling. The integrity of our game is No. 1. We will not compromise on that.”
Good for him. Glad to hear about Commissioner Goodell’s deep concern for the game’s integrity. <cough, cough>
No doubt, Goodell is likely to receive a warm welcome when he speaks to the local Chamber of Commerce. Many business leaders in attendance either don’t care, or are unaware of, his harmful history when dealing with Las Vegas and the responsibility he bears for being at the helm of the bias against the city and the casino industry.
Accordingly, Goodell’s own credibility is at stake here. The vital positive relationship between the league and the city he hopes will embrace his product would be greatly enhanced with one thing — an apology.
Then, we’ll listen to the rest of what he has to say.