THERE WILL BE BLOOD: The NFL Is A Cruel And Shallow Money Trench Where Liars And Pimps Run Free And The Truth Dies Like A Dog Every Sunday

Great Balls Of Liar


THE ATLANTIC: Even if you’re not a football fan, the litany of unpleasantness emanating from the National Football League in recent months has been hard to avoid, because it keeps spilling out of the sports coverage to lead the nightly news: cheating, taxpayer fleecing, bounty hunting, domestic abuse, brain damage, suicide, even murder (and murder-suicide). For his clumsy handling of much of the aforementioned, Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, has been called, among many other things: “pathetic,” a “liar,” a “power mad autocrat,” a new “Torquemada,” a “buffoon,” a “puppet,” and a “shit-eating moron.” But Goodell is also very rich (current annual compensation: $44 million), because he presides over a colossus of TV ratings and revenue generation that has secured him the goodwill of the NFL’s owners, at whose discretion he serves. The league is reporting historic levels of viewership. In the fall of 2014, NFL football games constituted all 20 of the most-watched television programs—and a remarkable 45 of the top 50. (The only interlopers were Game Goodell MemeSeven of the World Series, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, two episodes of NCIS, and a lone 60 Minutes broadcast.) The 2015 Super Bowl, between the football-deflating Patriots and the performance-enhancing-drug-gobbling Seahawks, attracted the largest U.S. TV audience ever. The league is projected to earn $12 billion in TV and other revenue this year. MORE

ESPN: His bosses were furious. Roger Goodell knew it. So on April 1, 2008, the NFL commissioner convened an emergency session of the league’s spring meeting at The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. Attendance was limited to each team’s owner and head coach. A palpable anger and frustration had rumbled inside club front offices since the opening Sunday of the 2007 season. During the first half of the New England Patriots’ game against the New York Jets at Giants Stadium, a 26-year-old Patriots video assistant named Matt Estrella had been caught on the sideline, illegally videotaping Jets coaches’ defensive signals, beginning the scandal known as Spygate.

Behind closed doors, Goodell addressed what he called “the elephant in the room” and, according to sources at the meeting, turned over the floor to Robert Kraft. Then 66, the billionaire Patriots owner stood and apologized for the damage his team had done to the league and the public’s confidence in pro football. Kraft talked about the deep respect he had for his 31 fellow owners and their shared interest in protecting the NFL’s shield. Witnesses would later say Kraft’s remarks were heartfelt, his demeanor chastened. For a moment, he seemed to well up.

Then the Patriots’ coach, Bill Belichick, the cheating program’s mastermind, spoke. He said he had merely misinterpreted a league rule, explaining that he thought it was legal to Goodell Memevideotape opposing teams’ signals as long as the material wasn’t used in real time. Few in the room bought it. Belichick said he had made a mistake — “my mistake.”

Now it was Goodell’s turn. The league office lifer, then 49 years old, had been commissioner just 18 months, promoted, in part, because of Kraft’s support. His audience wanted to know why he had managed his first crisis in a manner at once hasty and strangely secretive. Goodell had imposed a $500,000 fine on Belichick, a $250,000 fine on the team and the loss of a first-round draft pick just four days after league security officials had caught the Patriots and before he’d even sent a team of investigators to Foxborough, Massachusetts. Those investigators hadn’t come up empty: Inside a room accessible only to Belichick and a few others, they found a library of scouting material containing videotapes of opponents’ signals, with detailed notes matching signals to plays for many teams going back seven seasons. Among them were handwritten diagrams of the defensive signals of the Pittsburgh Steelers, including the notes used in the January 2002 AFC Championship Game won by the Patriots 24-17. Yet almost as quickly as the tapes and notes were found, they were destroyed, on Goodell’s orders: League executives stomped the tapes into pieces and shredded the papers inside a Gillette Stadium conference room.

To many owners and coaches, the expediency of the NFL’s investigation — and the Patriots’ and Goodell’s insistence that no games were tilted by the spying — seemed dubious. It Goodell Memereminded them of something they had seen before from the league and Patriots: At least two teams had caught New England videotaping their coaches’ signals in 2006, yet the league did nothing. Further, NFL competition committee members had, over the years, fielded numerous allegations about New England breaking an array of rules. Still nothing. Now the stakes had gotten much higher: Spygate’s unanswered questions and destroyed evidence had managed to seize the attention of a hard-charging U.S. senator, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who was threatening a congressional investigation. This would put everyone — players, coaches, owners and the commissioner — under oath, a prospect that some in that room at The Breakers believed could threaten the foundation of the NFL. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: The Will Smith Film That Could Spell The End Of The NFL As We Know It