Commissioner Roger Goodell gets paid an exorbitant salary in part because he’s adept at publicly running interference for the unpopular positions and statements made by his constituents — the 32 owners who pay him that exorbitant salary. On Tuesday, Goodell has to publicly maneuver his way through a pointed question regarding proof obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Rams and the league (and specifically Goodell himself) knew that team owner Stan Kroenke purchased land in Inglewood with a specific plan to move the Rams there — and that the Rams and the league (and specifically Goodell himself) failed to tell the truth about it when the questions first emerged.
A reporter, referring to the documents obtained by the Post-Dispatch, said the materials “make it appear clear to a reasonable reader that the public was misled by the Rams and the league about Stan Kroenke’s intentions prior to that process became public.” Next came the question: “What assurances can you give fans in other cities that they’ll hear the straight story from the league and their team about their needs and their intentions and their sustainability in their markets?”
“I would tell you, first standpoint, I don’t agree with your assumption on what you conclude,” Goodell said in response. “Second of all, those processes end up being very public. Very transparent. And I think everyone understands exactly what the club needs and what the community wants to do. And they try to work to reach that kind of an agreement. But none of us want to see relocations. We’ve always said we work hard to avoid those. When they happen, they’re painful for everyone. And we do our best to avoid that.”
Because the shotgun nature of a press conference makes it difficult for meaningful followup to occur, Goodell wasn’t pressed on the question of whether he knew that Kroenke planned to move the team to the land he’d purchased when Goodell said, at a pre-Super Bowl conference in 2014, “Stan is a very large developer on a global basis. He has land throughout the country and throughout the world. There are no plans, to my knowledge, of a stadium development.”
Indeed, after Goodell finished, another reporter asked a different question about a different topic. Threat neutralized.
However, the documents from the litigation show that Goodell knew the truth when he said this, and that the truth was: (1) Kroenke indeed planned to develop a stadium there; and (2) the Rams and the league affirmatively decided to conceal it.
It is, as the saying goes, what it is. The documents show that the team and the league knew that Kroenke planned to move the Rams to the land he purchased, and that the Rams and the league (and Goodell) covered it up. But Goodell is free to say whatever he wants in a press conference setting when asked one, and only one, question about it.
In post-truth America, the sad truth is that’s pretty much all we’re ever going to get on the matter.