Among the festivities to take place during the week leading up the Super Bowl is NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s annual press conference.
This year’s version, however, will look a lot different than previous editions. According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, in addition to moving the press conference from Wednesday to Monday, the event will also be invite-only for any reporters hoping to attend.
As Florio — who didn’t receive an invitation to the press conference — points out, the scheduling change could very well limit the amount of reporters who are able to attend as many out-of-town media members won’t arrive until later in the week. It’s also worth noting that the annual press conference had previously been held on the Friday before the Super Bowl — when the most media members would be in town — before being moved to Wednesday beginning in 2017.
But while there may very well be a logistical reason for the inconvenient change in dates, it’s hard to read the move to invite-only as anything but an attempt to limit — and even control — who asks Goodell questions. Although many press conference settings require some sort of credentialing process, the fact that at least one mainstream NFL reporter who’s not shy about being critical of the league wasn’t invited to the press conference does more than raise questions about the league’s intent.
The changes to this year’s format come one year after veteran reporter Jim Trotter — then with NFL Media — used the press conference to grill Goodell about the league’s diversity issues. One month later, Trotter announced that his contract with the league had not been renewed and he has since filed a lawsuit against the NFL alleging racial discrimination.
In addition to Trotter’s ongoing lawsuit, which the NFL is attempting to get thrown out, there are several important questions facing the league right now. Those questions include (but are not limited to) the league’s relationship with sports betting, unfounded allegations of the league being rigged, the state of officiating and concussions and player safety.
Some, if not all of these questions, could very well still — and should — be asked. Still, that shouldn’t excuse the league from unnecessarily controlling who is doing the asking.