Protect the shield. It's the number one mission of Roger Goodell's NFL. Well… that and an evil plan to control the world's water supply. (Probably.) The NFL will do any and everything to protect the NFL shield. Fine players, suspend coaches, shout from the mountaintops about their hypocritical commitment to player safety, conduct a questionable investigation into bounties, and lock out their referees for three weeks of the season because of .000000423% of their billion dollar business. (Although now that a deal is done, Roger Goodell can go back to saving cats from dangerously high tree branches.)
Given the arrogance from the league office throughout the refs lockout, it should be no surprise to hear the NFL tried to influence their broadcast partners before the season began to bring more favorable coverage. That's what John Lynch told the Dan Patrick Show Wednesday morning.
The former Bucs safety and current Fox analyst said, "I know Week 1 the league I think kinda duped every network and called and said we're close to a deal so have your guys go easy. That was kinda the edict from up top – go easy on these guys." Here's the audio via Deadspin…
This audio is peculiar for a couple reasons. First, Patrick himself works for NBC's NFL coverage and said on the show he had no knowledge of any declaration from the league regarding the television approach to network officials. Perhaps this call was just made to Fox and CBS or just the game broadcasters, who knows. Secondly, and more puzzling, why would the NFL tell broadcasters to go easy on officials for Week 1 and yet cut them loose to criticize refs for Weeks 2 and 3 when a deal wasn't made? How does that make any sense whatsoever from the league's perspective? Could it be the simple truth that the NFL knew broadcasters would have their integrity shattered if they couldn't be critical of glaring officiating mistakes for more than a week.
Most concerning in all of this is John Lynch claiming the NFL is influencing the media coverage by their television partners in any way. Of course, it's naive to think the NFL doesn't influence the networks, but it's still distressing regardless. Forcing ESPN to pull Playmakers, a drama series, is one thing. Trying to spin stories and coverage of games and events relating to the league is entirely another. Given the amount of fire the shield is under this week, it's worth asking whether or not the NFL has influenced or pressured television partners at other times… like, let's say in the wake of the BountyGate scandal in spite of the league's continued shady handling of the matter? In hindsight, that wouldn't be too far fetched now, would it?