Powerful people don’t like to submit to anyone else’s power. For most captains of industry, that happens either when they’re called to the board room (where plenty of them already have stacked the deck by getting friends appointed to the governing body) or when they’re summoned to testify in court.
For NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who currently has no reason to fear an audience with his 32 bosses, the only way to really make him squirm is to put him under oath.
It’s not that Goodell or any other high-level executives are wired to tell anything other than the truth (though plenty are). It’s the principle of having to yield to anyone or anything that folks with power don’t like, and by being compelled to testify a person who has plenty of power necessarily doesn’t possess as much as he or she is accustomed to having.
It’s no surprise, then, that the NFL continues to work to shield Goodell from having to give deposition testimony in the Super Bowl seating debacle. Though the scope of any inquiry has been narrowed by a federal judge in Texas, Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal reports that the league has asked the court to stay the ruling that Goodell must be deposed by August 5, so that the renewed effort to protect Goodell from testifying can be considered.
“The Order [requiring Goodell to testify] did not consider that the denial of class certification dramatically reduced the amount in controversy in this case,” the league explains in its official court filing. “This is no longer a putative class case seeking to recover millions of dollars on behalf of thousands of claimants; it is an eight person case with relatively small amounts of alleged damages.”
In English (or close to it), the NFL is saying that the stakes are much lower now, since the judge refused to allow the case to proceed as a class action on behalf of all customers who showed up with tickets to Super Bowl XLV and who were told that they were SOL. But the number of plaintiffs shouldn’t matter; Goodell should be required to testify once as to all of the potential lawsuits, with the understanding that the testimony could be used in any of the cases brought by lawyer Michael Avenatti, who says he represents “hundreds” of plaintiffs and that the cases are valued at more than $60 million.
None of this will stop the lawyers representing the NFL from trying to shield Goodell from ever having to raise his right hand and repeat the vow to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The simple truth is that, even if persisting in the effort to keep Goodell from testifying eventually pisses off the judge and harms in a roundabout way the league’s substantive interests, Goodell’s marching order to the league’s lawyers will be to do whatever has to be done to protect him from submitting to any authority other than his own.