Less than two months ago, NFL Network reporter Jim Trotter pressed commissioner Roger Goodell for answers about the absence of Black senior managers in the NFL Media newsroom and on the news desk.
Goodell listened and then gave Trotter a, well, less than satisfactory answer.
“I’m not in charge of the newsroom,” Goodell said. “As you point out, this is the same question you asked last year.” Goodell went on to say that the league had gone back since Trotter had asked the question and reviewed many of its policies. Goodell said he was comfortable with the progress the NFL had made.
Goodell stressed he doesn’t control the newsroom but that answer was singular because he’s the commissioner. He controls almost everything. All he has to do is make a phone call and things can change. But the fact that the newsroom has been static according to what Trotter was saying is highly telling.
Trotter tweeted this week that his contract was not renewed. In effect, the network is letting him go. It’s possible there are mass layoffs at the network we don’t know about, and Trotter likely isn’t the only one being let go.
This may seem like inside stuff but in actuality, it’s a perfect illustration of how poorly the NFL often handles issues of race. Particularly when it comes to Black people. Letting go the reporter who brought attention to the league’s failings on race, not long after he questioned the commissioner about the league’s failings on race, especially at the NFL Network, which helps shape how players are viewed by the general public, is peak NFL on race.
“NFL Media told The (NY) Post that 58 percent of full-time employees hired in 2022 were people of color, and that the 3 most recent NFL Media senior hires are POC,” Trotter tweeted. “My ? How many Black senior managers are in the NEWSROOM (0) & how many full-time Blacks are on the news desk (0)?”
It’s not that Black people are the only people of color who matter. Of course that’s not it. It’s what Trotter explains here:
“Please don’t fall for the banana in the tailpipe,” Trotter said. “In a league that says its player population is 60-70% Black, these men deserve to have someone w/similar cultural and life experiences at the table when decisions are being made about how they will be covered. Seems appropriate.”
On Tuesday, Trotter appeared on Peacock’s “Brother From Another,” and Trotter gave us a rare, unfiltered look behind the NFL curtain. Trotter stated outright he believed his leaving the network was because of his public questioning of Goodell. Trotter’s comments below are lengthy but I believe it is important enough to run in their entirety.
“I will have a lot to say about it at the appropriate time, which is not now,” Trotter told Michael Holley. “What I will say now is that journalism matters, and holding people who are in power accountable matters. And that’s part of our job, regardless of whether it’s our own employer or someone else.
“One of the things the NFL always said internally was, ‘Hold us accountable. Hold us accountable as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion.’ And so for the last couple of years, that’s what I’ve been trying to do, pointing out that in our newsroom, where we cover a player population that is roughly sixty to seventy percent Black according to league data, there is no Black person in senior management in our newsroom who has a seat at the table when we are deciding how we are going to cover these players and who is going to cover them.
“Secondarily, we do not have a full-time Black person on the news desk at NFL Media. And I keep saying ‘we’ because officially I’m not terminated until Friday. To me, those are issues. Because, one, I think it’s unfair to the players.They should have someone who shares either the same or similar life experiences and cultural experiences at the table when we talk about how we are going to cover them.And the fact that we don’t, to me, is an issue.
“So I have raised that repeatedly over the last two years, including at the last two Super Bowls with the Commissioner. And there are some who didn’t like it. And I do believe it played a role in my contract not being renewed, and I will talk about that more later. But so be it, you know? I’m not going to change. And I’m always going to fight for representation, and I’m always going to fight for the truth.”
It’s true that there are several companies that allow people to publicly criticize their bosses. It’s also true that Trotter isn’t entitled to a lifetime position. No one is.
But why didn’t the league act on what Trotter was saying? Which was legitimate. Why is Trotter the one who has to bring up this topic? Why has the network, which again is like a mirror on the league, been stubborn in not wanting to fix the issue?
The NFL could have easily said: You know what? Trotter is right. Let’s change this. Instead, apparently for two years, they didn’t address the concerns Trotter raised. It strikes me as just pure arrogance on the league’s part.
I hope the league isn’t using Trotter as a cautionary tale. Speak up and you’re gone. If you think such a notion is crazy, see: Kaepernick, Colin.
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The backlash the league has faced is as much about the issue as it is how it is handled Trotter. He’s not just immensely respected, he’s seen as brave, someone who tried his best to change the league from the inside. Trotter was always passionate about the issue, but also respectful.
Trotter has always been an example.
The NFL could learn something from him.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL Network’s treatment of Jim Trotter shows NFL fails on race issues