Are Roger Goodell’s new restricted Super Bowl news conferences here to stay?

Are Roger Goodell’s new restricted Super Bowl news conferences here to stay?

LAS VEGAS — Asking Roger Goodell a question was one of the most challenging tasks of sports journalism.

The NFL commissioner’s Super Bowl news conferences are meticulously choreographed choreographies. The league’s communications staff often asks members of the media what topics they want to ask about beforehand, so Goodell and his staff go into each presser with a written list of plays, the same way an offensive coordinator would.

After a reporter gets a nod that means they’ll be subpoenaed, Goodell usually responds in his most political style — vague, emotionless, and non-revealing. And good luck with your follow-up request, as league staff are quick to remove the microphone.

This year, that feat has become even more difficult.

Goodell originally held his Super Bowl news conferences on Fridays. In 2017, that moved to Wednesdays, resulting in fewer reporters in attendance since some arrived midweek. This year, the league moved it to Monday, a travel day for much of the league’s media giants.

In past years, with the exception of the limited coronavirus protocol of 2020 and 2021, the commissioner’s news conference was open to anyone with Super Bowl week credentials. Just getting in the door this year required an invitation-only credential that went to a group of about 125 reporters, as well as an escort to the Las Vegas Raiders locker room at Allegiant Stadium, where Goodell spoke.

Rumblings about a potential move began surfacing in January, but most reporters didn’t learn of the change in date until NFL communications staffers started texting and emailing them last week, long after travel plans had been finalized.

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Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News is president of the Pro Football Writers of America, a group that advocates for reporters’ access to NFL employees. He said Watkins engages in dialogue throughout the year with the league and NFL communications staff The athlete, but the NFL did not contact him — nor, to his knowledge, any of the other eight members of the PFWA board — to discuss date and access changes. Watkins found out Thursday night from another reporter instead.

After learning of the change, Watkins contacted NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy and had what Watkins described as a “constructive and productive” conversation.

McCarthy said the move to Monday came about because commissioners of other professional sports leagues often open their tournament weeks with a news conference. McCarthy explained that the league wanted to reduce the number of people who attended the press conference but were not there to report. McCarthy confirmed this reasoning The athlete.

“Anytime you limit the number of media outlets that can ask you questions, it bothers me,” Watkins said. “Every properly accredited member of the media for the Super Bowl should have access to ask a question of the NFL Commissioner.”

McCarthy said 56 different media outlets attended Goodell’s conference on Monday, but there were noticeably fewer media from teams that did not play in this year’s Super Bowl. In the media evening following the news conference, several reporters quietly bemoaned the new format that kept them on the outside.

Watkins said the league pulled the invitation list from reporters who attend league meetings, as well as reporters from the Kansas City and San Francisco markets. Watkins said the NFL was cooperative when he asked to add a reporter to the roster.

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This year’s issue met the NFL’s goal of reducing unnecessary distractions and tricks. Last year’s press conference opened with Donna Kelsey asking if Goodell could be a guest on her sons’ hit podcast, though it’s likely that softball was coordinated by the league.

Monday’s hour-long session in the Raiders’ locker room was decidedly a more serious affair. Goodell answered gambling-related questions from four different reporters, as well as asking tough questions about officiating, playing surfaces, the Rooney Rule, and the lack of variety in offensive coordinator roles.

At last year’s news conference, Goodell was pressed about the lack of black employees in the NFL Network newsroom in an uncomfortable disagreement with then-NFL Network employee Jim Trotter. (Trotter’s NFL Network contract was not subsequently renewed. He was previously hired.) The athlete In April, and in September, Trotter sued the league for racial discrimination.) This year, there was retaliation for Trotter’s question about the NFL Network’s lack of full-time black employees.

Next year, Watkins said he hopes to have the NFL expand the list of invited reporters — and hopes to receive better communications from the league office about when, where and how the commissioner will make his most important remarks of the year.

“Hopefully this doesn’t create a trend across the sport where they’ll say, ‘We’re going to limit who can come in and talk to our leaders,’” Watkins said.

(Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Tags for translation) NFL

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