NFL owners are celebrities, whose actions will impact Roger Goodell’s legacy

Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson and the Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Beaton discuss the celebrity status of NFL owners. Why are NFL owners given the status versus owners of teams in other professional sports leagues? How will the missteps of the league’s owners shape the legacy of commissioner Goodell? Hear the full conversation on the You Pod to Win the Game podcast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen.

Video Transcript

ANDREW BEATON: One thing that’s curious about the NFL is that the owners are celebrities, which is a lot different than other leagues. And here, it’s not just about a team president leaving, like happened last year with Mark [? Boden. ?] But you have an outgoing team president pointing a finger at an owner. And this is the owner who’s the son of one of the most famous owners in NFL history.

And so depending on what we learn, what comes out about this, I think it does have the potential to be big, because owners are big names in the NFL. I think you could ask an average baseball fan, and they might not know who the owner of the Cincinnati Reds is. But I bet they can tell you who the owner of the Cincinnati Bengals is. It’s just, owners are big, big figures in football. And so depending on what happens here, I think the fact that he might be playing a central role could make this a big deal.

CHARLES ROBINSON: Yeah, and I think it’s also, I mean, I would say the NFL, the owners are under more scrutiny for everything than anywhere else. I mean, it’s just crazy, when you think of, let’s just look at Dan Snyder, think of just the Dan Snyder storylines for like two decades.

And even today, it was interesting. I saw there was a little blurb. I saw it on social media, I don’t how far, Jim Irsay’s bidding $ 2 million on a Kurt Cobain guitar. OK. But over the years, we’ve kind of seen this. Jim Irsay’s pulled over with a bag of money and prescription medication. Robert Kraft is in a spa.

It’s almost like you could go down the list with these owners. And every single one of them tie some kind of high profile story to them that might not necessarily draw a direct line to them, their ownership of the team. It’s just their personal lives also become fodder for everybody else. We have a pretty solid contingent of UK fans who listened to the show, who hate the Glazers, just hate the Glazers because of their involvement, obviously, and hate Stan Kroenke.

And so I’m like, wow, people in St. Louis and then Arsenal fans also hate Stan Kroenke. I’m like, it’s just wild. It really is fascinating to see how, as you said, they’ve become part of the machine that drives in the NFL forward. They draw interest. They’re part of the circus, the show.

And I can’t, for the life of me, I watch the NBA. I couldn’t name 2/3 of the NBA owners. I couldn’t name– it took me a little while to catch up to the Timberwolves. I’m like, why the hell are fans– like, why are they protesting? It took me a while to catch up to that.

And so it’s– I do think, though, that this is, if you’re Roger Goodell, don’t you think this has to start to weigh on– like at some point, you and I and everybody else particularly the Hall of Fame voters. I’m not a Hall of Fame voter, but there’s going to be the lean.

It’s going to be like, OK, whether it’s, whenever Roger steps out, well, when can we get Roger involved? Right? Because it happens. It’s happened over the last couple of commissioners.

His period of overseeing the NFL, there’s a lot of controversial things that have happened. There’s a lot of, I feel like the ownership stories have become more prominent under Roger. Maybe that’s just because it’s a product of the NFL becoming more prominent the last two decades, and he just happened to be riding along with it.

But don’t you start to think, like, at some point, the involvement of what’s happening with these franchises, and then really subsequently, the investigation into his bosses, doesn’t that start to weigh on how we look at Roger Goodell at some point? Are we going to be sitting here in 10 years saying, well, let’s look at what we really never got to the bottom of.

Did we get to the bottom of Dan Snyder? Did we get to the bottom of Jerry Richardson? Did we get to the bottom of Mark Davis? Did we really ever get to the bottom of Stan Kroenke? And that went– that was heading into an open courtroom.

Does that weigh on Roger, that he’s now in this position where we’re constantly looking at him and going, are you going to investigate this? Or does Congress have to step in again?

ANDREW BEATON: Yeah. I mean, and is there a moment where that question is coming to a crescendo more than right now? I mean, you have, not just what happened with everything with the Washington Football Team over the last couple of years and their report or lack of written report and so on. But just think about what’s happening right now as we’re having this conversation.

You have two owners, Dan Snyder and Stephen Ross, under league-led investigations. So two of the owners are, right now, at this second, being investigated by the league. You have, now Mark Davis dragged into one. And so you have allegations of an extraordinarily hostile workplace environment, which is, by the way, once every few weeks, we seem to be getting a new bombshell from Congress about, one that might even offend fans on a different level when they, we ‘re talking about a team potentially tanking in an extraordinary way that would violate every sort of competitive principle that football tries to stand on.

And then we have another seemingly workplace culture situation. And so when you’re talking about, what will the legacy of these investigations be? I think the next several months will probably be pretty telling, right? We have– we’re going to either learn a lot, or we’re going to learn nothing.

And depending on which way it goes, depending on what those punishments are, do they turn into knock ’em out, drag’ em out fights? Do they just try to sweep it into a rug, under a rug and say, you know, it is kickoff weekend, Thursday night. Enjoy it.

CHARLES ROBINSON: Right.

ANDREW BEATON: And not to mention, the NFL has to decide to– and by the NFL, this is still ultimately Roger Goodell. What’s going to be done about Deshaun Watson?

CHARLES ROBINSON: Right.

ANDREW BEATON: And so you have a few owners. You have one of the most prominent quarterbacks in the league who, by the way, was given the richest guaranteed deal in league history while this is happening. So yeah, is this a legacy-defining moment? Absolutely, one of many. But these next several months, they’re going to be jam packed with big decisions.

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