NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell knows that the draft is the most fun part of the offseason for football fans. And he knows that this year’s draft is being overshadowed by the league’s labor unrest. So in his efforts to win public support for the owners’ side in the labor situation, Goodell is positioning himself as the protector of the draft.
In an interview with ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Goodell re-stated his case that the owners want to keep the draft in place, while the players want to do away with it.
“When people attack the game of football, I take that seriously,” Goodell said. “People are attacking the draft. They’re attacking free agency restrictions, they’re talking about the salary cap. All of that attacks the very essence of what made our game so successful, and I believe that’s important: As commissioner I need to do everything I can to protect the game for our fans.”
For his part, NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith has dismissed Goodell’s claims about attacking the draft, saying, “If he truly believes that the draft is something that we’re attacking, then I don’t know what’s gonna happen on Thursday, but the last time I checked my calender, the draft is scheduled to move forward.”
But while the 2011 draft is safe, future drafts are being attacked, even if the players don’t realize that’s what their lawyer is doing.
The millions of NFL fans who love the draft as a three-day celebration of football in the spring are squarely on the side of keeping the draft in place, which is why Goodell sees it as smart PR to position himself as the draft’s protector.