NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been conspicuous in his presence during the pandemic. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been conspicuous in his absence.
Goodell spoke on camera for the first time earlier this week, in a FaceTime call with Ankur Jain, the founder and CEO of Kairos.
Among other things, Goodell reiterated the league’s intent to play football games in 2020.
“The NFL is planning to play,” Goodell said. “That’s our hope, and that’s our planning to date.”
Similar to the league’s views regarding the upcoming draft, Goodell believes that football will be beneficial during these trying times.
“We can help our country heal,” Goodell said. “We can help bring our communities together. We can provide hope. We can provide a distraction from the everyday issues and show people that there is a future out there and that we’re all going to be part of that.”
He’s right. Even though playing the games directly advances the financial interests of the NFL, it also advances the broader interests of a society that is caught in a Groundhog Day existence, slowly climbing a mountain with no idea where the top may be — and whether there’s even a top at all. Having events like the draft and football games will help people who are staying at home pass the time until the time comes for normalcy.
But there’s a balance. Goodell made it clear that the league will, in deciding when to play, put public safety first.
“We have to put the general public safety but also the safety of all those workers [at stadium],” Goodell said. “The hope here is that the steps that our leaders are taking are going to help end this pandemic as soon as possible.”
While we wait for it to end, Goodell has provided a message of optimism.
“We’re gonna get through this,” he said. “We’re gonna get through this together as a country and as world and that this is something that we’re going to overcome. People should keep that hope, because we’re going to get back to doing the things that we were doing and hopefully creating a great future for so many people, and I hope everyone stays involved and does what’s best in our communities in the short term but more importantly keeps focusing on the future, because it’s going to be a bright future for us.”
For the millions of football fans who currently feel lost, a simple expression like that from the man who runs the NFL can make a big difference. Here’s hoping we get more messages of hope like this from Goodell, and from others who occupy a high profile in pro sports.