Last year, Commissioner Roger Goodell passed on an invitation to be interviewed by Bob Costas of NBC during the Super Bowl pregame show, a move that wasn’t surprising in the early days of #DeflateGate. This year, Goodell opted to sit for an interview with James Brown of CBS.
There was limited real estate for the interview, and a chunk of it was devoted to the pending allegation from Al Jazeera that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning used HGH in 2011.
Here’s the question that Brown asked: “The investigation linking Peyton Manning with HGH, and while the source has recanted we know that there are other agencies investigating this. Specifically, what’s the role of the NFL in the investigation?”
Here’s the answer from Goodell: “Well, we are conducting our own investigation. We started that immediately when we got the first reports on this. There are other players, other leagues involved. We will work together in a cooperative fashion to make sure that we get the facts. We’re not going to speculate on what they are at this point in time, but we’re going to take it very seriously as we do anything that impacts on either the safety of our players or the integrity of our game.”
It’s unclear how much more could have been gotten from Goodell, but with a question that came off as a perfunctory checking of boxes, it’s no surprise that the answer felt the sam way. Faced with the standard, basic, what’s-up-with-Peyton-and-HGH? question, Goodell provided the standard, basic hand-crafted-talking-point response.
Not surprisingly, the question carried a bit of the implicit derision that many major media outlets have added to the case, with Brown specifically pointing out that Al Jazeera’s source recanted. Phrasing it that way creates the impression that it was all one big lie, and that there’s nothing to anything that Charles Sly said while being secretly recorded.
But here’s the thing. The excellent item from the Washington Post regarding the mobilization of the Manning machinery to combat the allegations before the story broke includes a report that Sly recanted “without knowing exactly what he was recanting.” So, in order words, Sly said, “I lied when I said all those things to that guy. I don’t know what specifically I said at this point but all of it was a lie. None of if was the truth. Although I’m not quite sure what I said.”
Why does it seem so hard for the media to process the difference between truly recanting and covering one’s ass? According to the Post, two men hired by Manning’s lawyers showed up at the house of Sly’s parents, wearing black overcoats and claiming to be law enforcement officers. Hired P.R. gun Ari Fleischer insists (predictably) that Manning’s lawyers in no way coerced or influenced Sly’s recanting, which happened one day after the men in black overcoats interrogated Sly.
No, they didn’t influence or coerce Sly. They simply showed up at his parents’ house and sufficiently alarmed them to spark a 911 call. Common sense permits the blanks to be filled in from there regarding the content of the ensuing conversations between Sly and his parents.
And when the men in black overcoats talked to Sly, they didn’t tell him to recant. Common sense permits the blanks to be filled in for there regarding what they possibly told him regarding what might happen if the story is published in its current form, based on the things that Sly recanted the next day. Sly could be sued. His career could be derailed if not destroyed based on the extreme lack of discretion that his comments revealed.
So they didn’t influence or coerce. They just stated facts and Sly influenced or coerced the recantation out of himself, with any further assistance.
As a practical matter, the HGH investigation doesn’t really matter at this point, because Manning likely will retire after Super Bowl 50. Assuming the league eventually gets the information it needs from the Guyer Institute (chances are it won’t), a finding of a violation becomes relevant to Manning only if he’s working for another team and the league decides at that point to discipline him for things that he did as a player.