League takes issue with AP column


When NFL spokesman Greg Aiello takes issue with something we write on PFT, he calls us out via Twitter.  When he doesn’t like something written by the Associated Press, Aiello breaks out the typewriter.

Aiello has written a lengthy response to a column from Jim Litke of the AP.  The Litke column is, basically, a sawed-off shotgun blast of various and in spots inaccurate contentions regarding the NFL’s ongoing quest for dominance of the American sports landscape.

Litke’s cynicism is sort of cute, in that it implies he’s only realizing now that the NFL has pitched a tent at the top of the mountain and is building a moat around the perimeter.  That’s what successful businesses do.  They keep looking for ways to improve and to grow.  The improvements are limited only by the ingenuity and drive of the business; the growth is limited only by consumer demand.

Apart from the factual errors in Litke’s column (e.g., he claims Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wants taxpayers to “foot the bill” for renovations to Sun Life Stadium, which as Aiello points out implies incorrectly that the project includes no private money), it arises from the premise that, in a capitalistic economy, it’s somehow wrong for the NFL to capitalize on its success.

At a time when strangers happily are buying up the items on Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III’s wedding registry at Bed, Bath & Beyond, there’s nothing wrong with the NFL doing whatever the NFL can do to take advantage of the enormous power and popularity it has amassed.  As long as the NFL uses that power and popularity in legal and ethical ways, the more power and popularity to it.

Still, Litke whines about the NFL rewarding cities that have contributed public funds to stadium projects with Super Bowls.  Should the cities that have contributed public fund to stadium projects be excluded from hosting Super Bowls?

Litke whines about a potential three-week delay in the draft, and the “scheduling conflicts” conflicts it will potentially create with Mother’s Day and NHL and NBA playoff games.  As to the former, the draft isn’t held on a Sunday.  As to the latter, if consumers choose to watch and follow the NFL draft instead of hockey or basketball playoffs, why should Litke or anyone else (other than hockey and basketball owners) care?

Litke whines about the extra work that the expanded calendar will create for NFL employees.  First, free agency, the Scouting Combine, and the draft will still happen, only at different times.  Second, if more work truly is created, teams can hire more help or pay the current employees more money or risk having employees who don’t want to work a little harder leaving for other jobs.

Litke also whines that “many clubs are likely to cut out minicamps” if the draft is delayed, revealing that he has no understanding of how the NFL works.  The coaches will ensure that every practice permitted by the labor deal is conducted.  Besides, if Litke is worried about people working too hard, shouldn’t he applaud a change that results in less work for players and coaches?

With all due respect (i.e., here comes the insult), Litke just wants to whine about the NFL, and to do so he has slapped together some flimsy gripes and complaints without regard to whether they hold water.

The far better point is that, by constantly expanding and growing, the league risks saturating the marketplace, and in turn seeing its power and popularity diminish.  Moreover, it’s human nature to resent (or at least to be leery of) anything that gets too big, too strong, and/or too rich.

Perhaps that mindset spawned Litke’s column.  Perhaps the league is inching toward the point of diminishing returns.  Even if that’s the case (and we think this could indeed happen if the NFL forces an 18-game season onto the American public), the NFL has every right to keep looking for ways to expand its influence and to enhance its balance sheet.

The NFL has plenty of flaws and problems, and it seems at times to thrive despite them.  But the goal of any worthwhile business is to get bigger, and no company  ever should say, “OK, that’s enough.  We’re good right here.”Those that do risk not being “right here,” or anywhere else, for very long.

21 responses to “League takes issue with AP column

  1. Hmm, I’m not sure what Litke’s motivation is, but to me the biggest thing I complain about the NFL is the total lack of improvements to the game and efforts to look for ways to become more profitable. I can’t see how Litke would take the position that they are doing otherwise, thus I think his complaints are something different than the posted sentiment here.

    The Commissioner is doing a totally incompetent job along those 2 fronts and this league has tremendous unrealized potential and they are doing anything but showing capitalistic initiative to exploit maximum possible profits. They are hardly making any effort or positioning themselves as that kind of an entity. They have a very conservative plan to grow and modify the game and they are moving at a snail’s pace.

    I read the Litke column and I don’t think he is complaining about the NFL becoming too big, I think he’s complaining about the shadiness of their politics and the methods and styles and tones they use and how they dance around gray area issues in a way he sees as unpleasant.

  2. This is what it sounds like when people whine about scheduling conflicts.

  3. I think your comment on diminishing returns regarding 18 regular season games is about as valid as Litke’s whines. As a consumer (fan) of football, I would much rather see fewer pre-season games, more games that count and would bet that ALMOST all fans would watch (pay to go to) the 2 extra games. If the Real games are there, they will be watched. No fan is going to consider 2 more games as saturating the market. Regardless of whether you agree or not about an 18 game season, 2 more regular season games that count, does not “inch toward the point of diminishing returns.” Turning the pro-bowl into a game show and/or leaving it as it is now, would fall under that category.

  4. Say what you want about Litke’s article, but his mission has been accomplished with yours and Aiello’s help. Im sure he appreciates all the added traffic you two just brought his article.

  5. These are lame attacks on the NFL. If you really want to hit ’em where it hurts, discuss the NFL’s tax exempt status; the tax and interest free loans owners get to finance these stadiums and the NFL being outside anti-trust requirements.

    Remember, MLB gave up its tax exempt status

  6. And that is the problem with journalism today. It doesn’t pay to have a well constructed article that readers will find interesting. No, it pays to say something controversial.

  7. Actually, it sounds like a football writer who’s peeved that his once long offseason continues to get shorter and who might actually have to work more in May. It sounds much like the same stuff Mr. Coffee/Youth Sports/Red Sox Corner, uh, Peter King, complained about the other day is Monday Morning Namedropping column for the same reasons.

  8. I’ll write it again & every time this subject is mentioned….People in this country need to stop paying for Stadiums owned by BILLIONAIRES!!! The money fans pay for tickets, parking, merchandise, overpriced food & drinks at games is more than enough to supplement the teams/NFL BILLION dollar TV & ad revenue — and lets not forget the NFL’s non-profit tax standing… Where I am from they call that a G, paper gangstas or a real nice scheme lol

  9. I have no problem with the NFL and its owners making as much money as they can.

    Just keep taxpayer dollars off-limits.

  10. Does this dude also think the NFL should start after the World Series is over in October? That’s one hell of a scheduling conflict, Fox even takes Joe Buck away from the NFL for a couple weeks.

  11. If a city does not put up the cash to renovate stadiums, then there is no reason for the NFL to send a super bowl there. They are completely right if they award super bowls to cities with new stadiums!

  12. I have no beef with tax payer assisted stadiums. As long as there are limits to the assistance. The amount of revenue these stadiums bring to the surrounding businesses as well as the tax windfall the state gets from merch sales and concessions far outweigh withholding the money and having a “rundown” stadium. It’s getting harder and harder for teams to entice fans out of their ( I hate this term ) man caves. If it takes some help to get fans to the stadium spending their money there I’m ok with that. The alternative is the owner self finances the stadium which drives ticket prices higher which keeps fans and their taxable spending money home. It’s a win win for the state to help. You also have to consider what an updated stadium brings in in the offseason in terms of concerts and other gatherings. I am a fiscal conservative but when spending money creates more money than what is the issue. Yes the owners are rich, however it’s not so much welfare for billionaires as it is an investment for the state with a large return to be made.

  13. 2 problems:
    First of all, going to an 18 game schedule is an extraordinarily bad idea. The 2 conference/4 division per conference/ 4 team per division setup is logistically perfect and complements a 16 game schedule fantastically. Sorry, but it is true. Why mess with a good things. I am fine if you take away a preseason game or two, and I hate the idea of paying full price for preseason games with ticket packages. Otherwise that is perfect, just leave it alone.

    Second, I know this is not going to be a popular opinion, but I think Goodell is doing a damn fine job. He isn’t going to please everyone and there is what I believe to be a very vocal minority who hates him, but he is doing what is best for the league. Right now there are a ton of former players looking for another check for getting hurt while playing a violent game that they voluntarily chose to engage in. Goodell is doing what he can to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. That is his job, to protect the integrity of the shield and expand the marketplace. He also knows that expansion that is too aggressive can end up causing a bubble that will eventually burst. I am happy with the pace of expansion. I think the league is in a good place.

    Are there problems with what he and the league are doing? Sure there are, but he is doing much more good than harm. You don’t like that the league is losing some of its violence and isn’t like the football you grew up with? Place some of that blame with the overly litigious society we are currently in and not just all of it with Goodell. He is doing what he has to do based on the circumstances he is in, just like the rest of us are.

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