In a decade-old, fawning Sports Illustrated profile of Roger Goodell in advance of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement battle, the NFL commissioner was described as being fully in charge of the talks, with the full support and trust of franchise owners to negotiate a deal that works out best for them and their wallets.
Goodell delivered on that deal, and has since gotten the NFL Players Association to agree to another owner-friendly CBA before the 2011 one had even expired. He has overseen billions in television and rights deals, adding more and more to the already-bloated league coffers.
And yet it seems he either is no longer the leader as he was once described, or he isn't at all the principled man he has been purported to be for years.
It was there on full display Tuesday, when Goodell was in front of media after a day of league meetings in New York, effectively spitting in the face of the women who were victims of the Washington Football Team's toxic culture.
"I do think he has been held accountable," Goodell said of WFT owner Daniel Snyder.
"We feel that this is the appropriate way to do it," he said of the summary-that-wasn't-a-summary of Beth Wilkinson's months-long investigation into WFT's office filth.
The NFL wants to protect the "security, privacy and anonymity" of the former employees who spoke to investigators, he claimed, as if he couldn't release the findings while protecting the names of the victims, something that's done regularly in similar circumstances.
Dozens of women and men came forward to describe the rotten environment in the club's business offices, of pervasive sexual harassment, the exploitation of cheerleaders, and a general environment of denigrating women, allegations that stretched back years and some of which involved Snyder. They wanted justice. They wanted to know they'd be protected from any further attempts by Snyder to hurt them.
Beyond that, several of them have come forward with details on the record, sharing their stories with anyone who will provide a sympathetic ear, reliving their nightmarish days as employees of the NFL's worst franchise again and again. Two of them were courageous enough to travel to New York on Tuesday to hand-deliver a letter to team owners on the so-called social justice committee, demanding that the public know the details of what they endured.
When it came time for Wilkinson to present her findings to Goodell, she was told not to produce a written report. When it came time for the public to find out what Wilkinson uncovered, Goodell produced nothing. Any statements on WFT's culture have offered variations on the vague "it fell short of NFL values."
On Tuesday, in the quiet storm radio DJ voice Goodell uses to convey gravitas and trustworthiness as he speaks half-truths and offers winding answers with no actual substance, he showed what he truly is: a feckless empty suit who earns a lot of money to protect billionaire dinosaurs and the many skeletons in their closets.
Snyder has not been held to account. A "record fine" of $10 million, as Goodell highlighted, was billed to the team, not Snyder. Forbes' valuation of WFT is $4.2 billion. A $10 million fine for Washington is the equivalent of someone earning $100,000 a year paying a $238 speeding ticket.
Goodell said Snyder has been away from the team for "almost four months." What does that mean, exactly? Away how? His wife was named co-CEO and is allegedly in charge of the day-to-day operations, while Snyder can still work toward getting a new stadium deal in place. Snyder was also on hand, in a clownishly oversized hoodie, for the poorly executed Sean Taylor jersey retirement two weeks ago, and head coach Ron Rivera told a local radio show earlier this month that he talks to Snyder "once or twice a week."
Does that sound like he's away from the team, Roger?
Even if it was Snyder who'd been fined the $10 million, this is a man so litigious he once sued a 72-year-old real estate agent and grandmother who was a season-ticket holder for decades because the early-2000s housing crash meant she couldn't make payments on the $5,300-a-year contract she'd entered into for loge seats. He probably spends $10 million every couple of months on billable hours.
The only person who has actually faced a significant penalty for being even tangentially associated with Washington's sewer system is Jon Gruden, who got to resign from his head coach-for-life gig with the Las Vegas Raiders after the racist, sexist, anti-gay emails he traded with former WFT team president Bruce Allen were leaked.
Over his 15 years as commissioner, we've heard stories about Goodell and his father, former U.S. Senator Charles Goodell, a Republican from New York who changed his mind on the Vietnam War so thoroughly that he helped draft legislation to withdraw American troops from the country and marched in anti-war protests arm-in-arm with no less an icon than Coretta Scott King. Charles Goodell ended up losing his seat because of the stance, the charge to tarnish his name with his electorate led by Vice President Spiro Agnew and his political goons.
That strong-willed commitment to doing what's right has been ascribed to Charles Goodell's middle son, complete with a story about how Roger, then working as a bartender, once told a white patron to stop threatening a Black patron who wanted a drink in the tavern too.
Where is that now? Sixteen months ago, Roger Goodell made a video declaring that Black lives — you know, like the ones that are the heartbeat of the NFL — actually do matter, and we were all supposed to praise him for doing the absolute least.
In the time since, the league has painted "END RACISM" in the back of the end zone and put stickers on helmets. The absolute least.
Whenever a new story comes out with women being victimized, Goodell likes to remind us that he has a wife and daughters, using them as props in his performative concern campaigns.
That's all they are: performative.
No one is buying his act. If they were before, they certainly aren't after Tuesday when he once again spit in the face of women who deserve so much more than what they've received from one of the most powerful men in American sports, who continues to show what a spineless puppet he is, protecting the billionaires who pay his inflated paychecks instead of doing what is morally good.