Journalistic integrity is still alive

By Josh Bennett

Sports Editor

This season has been very troublesome for the NFL. With former Ravens RB Ray Rice punching his now-wife in an elevator on camera, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson beating his child with a switch, the controversy over the Washington Redskins nickname and other countless heinous acts, the most troubling thing about it all is the response from the NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell.

On Sept. 19, Goodell gave a press conference — which was supposed to be his sincere reaction to all the trouble in the NFL, but instead was a manufactured speech which solved nothing — showed Goodell beating around the bush by dodging any real questions asked to him. It ended up being an absolute train wreck. The speech was later parodied on South Park, portraying Goodell as a broken robot.

Meanwhile, the one thing the majority of fans and some of the media were expecting to happen, never happened. Expectations of Goodell resigning or stepping down after allowing these issues to occur as well as his very poor management of these issues resulted in disappointment.

With all of this obviously out in the open and clear for anyone to figure out, why is it that the most high-profile journalist to bluntly call out Goodell on his apathy gets suspended for three weeks from ESPN?

Published on Sept. 22, the BS Report, a weekly podcast by Bill Simmons, who runs Grantland, a subsidiary website for ESPN, called out Goodell and called him a liar. While other ESPN personalities have spoken out against the actions the NFL players committed and lack of NFL policies and response, and clamoring for Goodell’s resignation from the commissioner position, Simmons was the first one to attack Goodell personally.

These were the words that earned him a three week suspension from Grantland and ESPN. (You can listen to these words here.)

“Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar. I’m just saying it. He is lying. If you put him up on a lie detector test, that guy would fail. For all these people to pretend they didn’t know is such [expletive] [expletive]. It really is, it’s such [expletive] [expletive]. For him to go into that press conference and pretend otherwise — I was so insulted.” – Bill Simmons

He would later go on and challenge ESPN to punish him for calling out Goodell, which also contributed to his suspension.

“I really hope somebody calls me or emails me and says I’m in trouble for anything I say about Roger Goodell, because if one person says that to me, I’m going public. You leave me alone. The commissioner’s a liar and I get to talk about that on my podcast.” – Bill Simmons

ESPN did tell Simmons he was in trouble and he was suspended for three weeks and the podcast episode was pulled the very next day.

ESPN responded with the suspension with this.

“Every employee must be accountable to ESPN and those engaged in our editorial operations must also operate within ESPN’s journalistic standards. We have worked hard to ensure that our recent NFL coverage has met that criteria. Bill Simmons did not meet those obligations in a recent podcast, and as a result we have suspended him for three weeks.” – ESPN

Let’s break this statement down a little bit. It’s understandable that since ESPN carries Monday Night Football, they would not allow their talent to publicly badmouth the NFL. This, however, was an unwarranted suspension. Simmons should be allowed to call Goodell a liar on his podcast, especially with probable cause and proof backing that claim up.

The fact that ESPN suspended Simmons for calling out Goodell on his lies is unfortunate to journalism and it’s actual standards, not the ones ESPN created. Sure, Simmons challenging his employer to punish him for his comments was a little too far, but it’s uneasy to know whether he already knew he would be punished for speaking the truth on Goodell.

What kind of journalistic standards are those, ESPN? He’s not allowed to call a spade a spade, and he’s supposed to pretend Goodell is truly doing everything possible to right this wrong? It’s already known that he isn’t trying, and that he clearly botched the ruling on the Ray Rice situation, and that an actual policy was only put into place after that botched-ruling made him look bad in the public’s eye, despite numerous past incidents.

The whole purpose of journalism is to report on the truth. It was proven in Goodell’s “press conference” and with other various outside reports that he was lying, along with the Baltimore Ravens organization, about receiving surveillance tape from the Ray Rice incident. The police would not lie about delivering that tape, so why would the NFL cover this up to try to save face? The answer is money and advertisers, which the NFL is losing anyways. How are they replacing these lost ads? By airing anti-domestic violence public service announcements to try to further save face.

Another joke about this whole situation is that Simmons was suspended for three weeks. Ray Rice, before the video was publicly released, was only suspended two games for punching his then fiancée. Before Simmons’ suspension, ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith was only suspended one week for very questionable comments about women affected by domestic abuse.

What kind of standard are you setting, ESPN? Smith can say that women provoke their own beatings, and he’s benched for a week. However, Simmons calling out Goodell on his underhanded lies is going too far and earns him a three-week suspension.  ESPN claims that they made sure the recent NFL coverage has “met that criteria.”

What is that criteria? It’s acceptable to talk about the players screwing up because there’s plenty of them in the league, but when it comes to the commissioner, he’s off limits, no matter how badly he screws up himself. There’s a lot of double standards in that criteria, and true journalistic standards have no double standards and no roadblocks to the truth within them.

Why do the Goodell remarks warrant a larger punishment than domestic abuse or badmouthing female victims of domestic abuse? Unfortunately the answer is still money. If Simmons actually did not “operate within ESPN’s journalistic standards,” then many more ESPN personalities would have been suspended as well. Simmons was suspended because he called out Goodell and ESPN on their self-favoring double standards and challenged them to prove him right. They did.

Money shouldn’t rule everything. Journalistic integrity and the truth should still be first and foremost in news reporting, just like ESPN claims, regardless if the subject in question is a supporter or not. If the NFL supported this publication, I would still criticize Goodell’s lack of action on these past incidents from these players, as well as the players committing these incidents, likewise to anyone out there who tries to cover up mistakes without bothering to justly fix them, supporter or not.

Roger Goodell lied about the video tape and should be punished for it, just like the players involved are currently, and finally, getting punished for their actions. If that video tape never saw the light of day, Goodell would have kicked the whole thing under the rug and resumed life as usual.

If it warranted a three-week suspension on me, then so be it. At least the truth was out there, and the overprotected Goodell would no longer be invulnerable. I’m not calling Simmons a martyr to journalism, but at least there’s someone out there who won’t completely sell out the truth for money, which seems to be ESPN’s true obligation.

And if you don’t see me for three weeks, you’ll know why.

Do you agree or disagree with this? Have any other questions or comments for myself or Nate. Email us at [email protected] and you will be featured in our mailbag column. We hope to hear from you soon!