NFL Network reporter Jim Trotter Feb 8, 2023; Phoenix, AZ, USA; NFL Network reporter Jim Trotter at press conference at Phoenix Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Amidst wider cuts, NFL Media (which oversees the league’s coverage on NFL Network,, and other digital properties) opted not to renew the contract of veteran reporter and columnist Jim Trotter last month. But that move got quite a lot of attention thanks to it coming after Trotter publicly asked NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about a continued lack of Black employees in the NFL Network newsroom and on the newsdesk, a year after he’d previously brought that up and after Goodell had said they’d look into it. Now, Trotter has landed a new sports media role as a national columnist for The Athletic (on a new “Opinion desk”), a move which that company’s parent The New York Times announced Tuesday:

Trotter’s past national media stints include time at Sports Illustrated (2007-2014), ESPN (2014-18), and NFL Media (2018-23); he also covered the NFL for The San Diego Union-Tribune before that. So he was a well-known prominent voice on the NFL before any of these discussions around his questions to Goodell came up. But those questions definitely made the league’s decision not to renew his contract more notable, especially with him saying he believed his question to Goodell this year “played a role” in his contract not being picked up (even if no one from the league office or NFL Media management directly spoke to him on it afterwards). And they led to a lot of criticism for the NFL’s decision not to bring him back, including from AA’s Michael Grant:

It’s a move that, while not surprising, is dismaying. He is one of the few on-air voices who challenged the league, especially when it came to its lack of diversity both in coaching and in NFL Media leadership. Many have understandably connected his ouster to his verbal confrontations with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell over the past two Super Bowls. 

…NFL Media can always hire someone cheaper who’s more inclined to parrot the league’s talking points and not make waves. But the ousting of Trotter prompts questions: Why did the NFL hire Trotter in the first place? He’s a determined and thorough journalist, so the league had to know that he would conduct himself in that fashion. Trotter was not going to sit back and ignore or downplay problems with the league. Also, what does the NFL Network aspire to be? If it simply wants to engage in entertainment by ranking quarterbacks, airing press conferences and powder puff interviews, and replaying old games, that seems shortsighted. 

The NFL Network could be so much more. Trotter’s presence, at least originally, seemed to signal that it wanted to be more. When Trotter was brought aboard, the NFL’s own press release mentioned that he “reported extensively on player activism and social justice.” At the time, Awful Announcing’s Alex Putterman wrote that including this information suggested “that aspect of the reporter’s work was appealing to his new employer.”

…Examining social justice should include reporting on the league’s issues. Having Trotter on air lent credibility to the network and at least gave the appearance that the league was taking the problem seriously. The NFL generates billions in revenue annually. America’s appetite is seemingly insatiable. There’s nothing Trotter can say that will change that so there is no tangible downside to keeping him at the network. Perhaps Trotter is being let go mainly due to a salary-cutting move but considering the NFL’s profits, that seems hard to believe.

But Trotter has now landed at one of the most prominent national print outlets covering the NFL. It’s interesting to see him go there, as his work at both ESPN and NFL Media involved a lot of TV in addition to written pieces. (However, it should be noted that an Athletic deal does not preclude TV elsewhere; Shams Charania, Ken Rosenthal, and others have deals involving writing for The Athletic and doing TV elsewhere.) But Trotter has a strong writing background (he’s also penned two books, 2000’s Junior Seau: Overcoming The Odds, and 2015’s Junior Seau: The Life and Death of a Football Icon), and it’s notable to see him get a high-profile spot for that. And The Athletic’s team seems excited about adding him, as that release shows:

We are very happy to announce that veteran reporter Jim Trotter will join The Athletic next month as a national columnist.

…Trotter will work for The Athletic’s new Opinion desk and report to Deputy Managing Editor Jorge Rojas. He will continue to report on the N.F.L., while also writing columns on other sports and topics.

“We are really excited to bring Jim on board,” said Executive Editor Steven Ginsberg. “Jim has a deep understanding of the N.F.L. and the issues that resonate in the world of sports, an extensive source network and an innate sense for a great story. He will be a powerful new voice for The Athletic that will continue to make our coverage stand apart.”

“I’m honored and humbled by the opportunity to work with such a talented staff, and I’m excited about having the freedom and support to go where the news leads me,” Trotter said.

That last line is also interesting, especially with Trotter coming in after this highly-public exit from NFL Media. And it’s notable that he declined a three-month severance package from NFL Media that included a non-disclosure agreement. So it will be worth keeping an eye on his first columns (he begins at The Athletic on May 8) to see if he has more to say on how that played out, and on what it was like working at NFL Media.

[NYT Communications]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.