Goodell, Manfred in a race to the gutter

We saw the worst of American professional sports this week. We saw the leaders of the two most popular sports in the country — football and baseball — square off in a competition over who could be more arrogant, who could tell this biggest fib with a straight face. A fraud-off, if you will.

Within a few hours of each other, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stood before reporters about 1,700 miles from each other and dissembled about the serious issues facing their sports — issues like sexual harassment, racism and offensive displays — that desperately require the truth in today’s atmosphere.

Manfred must have been feeling the effects of pulling the baseball All-Star Game out of Atlanta this summer because of criticisms over Georgia’s new restrictive voting laws when he embraced not only the Braves’ name, but their fans’ embrace of the “tomahawk chop” celebration.

“The Native American community in that region is wholly supportive of the Braves program, including the chop,” Manfred told reporters before Game 1 of the World Series in Houston. “For me, that’s kind of the end of the story. In that market, we’re taking into account the Native American community.”

Well, that’s not the whole story. The Braves announced in 2020 that they had formed a “cultural relationship” with the Eastern Band of the Cherokees in North Carolina to discuss, among other things, the appropriateness of the chop. But here is what primary chief of that band, Richard Sneed, said in a statement.

“As a people proud of our own identity, we do not support cultural appropriation or any disrespectful representation of Native nations. We believe that candid, thoughtful conversations are crucial to educating leaders and bringing about positive change. As such, we have committed to working with the Atlanta Braves as they explore opportunities to represent Native Nations more appropriately.”

I didn’t see the word “supportive” in there anywhere.

The NFL, though, remains king, and as much as Manfred may have tried to win this deceit battle, Goodell “trumped” the baseball commissioner, so to speak.

He stood up there at the NFL owners’ meetings in New York and said that as far as revealing the details of the Beth Wilkinson probe into sexual harassment and bullying within the Washington Football Team organization, he has no intention of doing any such thing.

Why? He’s protecting the victims.

“When you make a promise to protect the anonymity to make sure that we get the right information, you need to stand by that,” Goodell told reporters. “And so we’re very conscious of making sure that we’re protecting those that came forward. They were incredibly brave, incredibly open, and we respect the pain that they probably went through all over again to come forward.”

How obscene. How thoroughly disgusting.

An attorney representing at least 40 of those women has come forward and said they sought no such anonymity and want just the opposite — the detail of the so-called investigation made public.

“I represent 40 former employees of the WFT who participated in the investigation. Goodell’s statement is false,” Lisa Banks wrote in a letter. “My clients did not ask the NFL for ‘protection’ when they participated in the investigation. They asked for transparency and accountability — and received neither.”

Goodell wasn’t done, though. He was on a roll, with the lies coming out of his mouth like Jon Gruden email leaks.

He doesn’t understand why people want owner Dan Snyder’s head. The league has already punished him enough, he said.

“I do think he’s been held accountable,” Goodell told reporters. “I think the organization has been held accountable. I think we’ve given an unprecedented fine. Dan Snyder has not been involved with the organization for now almost four months.”

The team — not Snyder — was fined $10 million. And as far as not being around, Snyder has reportedly been at every Washington Football Team game.

At this stage in my life, I treasure the little naivete I hold on to. I often wonder how these people then can go home and face their families — in this case, their wives or daughters — after blatantly twisting the truth to protect such horrid people.

Silly me.

Jane Skinner, a former Fox News host and Goodell’s wife, once used a fake Twitter account to defend her husband and the NFL, according to a 2017 Wall Street Journal report. She told USA Today in 2016 that Goodell “is incredibly supportive of women. I would never have married him if he wasn’t.”

There’s that word “supportive” again. I don’t think these people fully understand what that word means. Then again, when you hear “supportive” coming out of the mouth of Goodell or Manfred, it’s likely there is no real meaning intended.

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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