Greeson: Michael Sam news upstages Congress threat for NFL

Greeson: Michael Sam news upstages Congress threat for NFL

February 12th, 2014 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam (52) warms up before the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football game against Oklahoma State in Arlington, Texas.

Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam (52) warms up...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has become the sports executive with the world's biggest rabbit's foot.

He scheduled an outdoor February Super Bowl and got temperatures 12 degrees above normal in the middle of arguably the harshest winter in our lifetime.

He thought he had slid through a $750 million concussion settlement before a federal judge put a brake on that. He has used a series of hand distractions and promises of more games and potentially more playoff berths to avert the attention to the too-low salary cap that carries with it a potentially shaky labor future and the shoved-under-the-rug stories about drug use in the NFL.

And still the league is an ATM, making more than $12 billion last year and shooting to make $25 billion before 2030. The NFL is a juggernaut that controls its message better than every other sport and arguably as well as any enterprise anywhere.

And Goodell in a lot of a ways deserves credit for that. He has been charged with growing the business of the league, and for the league, business is good. Very good.

He could offer a $1 billion buy-in to join the league with an expansion team, and dozens of people and cities would move Heaven and Earth to get in the NFL. Heck, he could have a 40-team league by Thursday afternoon with each of those teams knowing they would stink for the foreseeable future and happily lose 11 games a season and line their pockets with tens-to-hundreds of millions of dollars every season.

So in some ways we should not have been surprised that the next issue facing Goodell and the league was pushed way down the news cycle with the Michael Sam announcement Sunday.

The Washington Post reported that two members of Congress -- Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) -- are examining ways to force Goodell and the league to change the name of the Washington Redskins. Cantwell even said she would "definitely" look at revoking the NFL's tax-exempt status, the golden scepter of the league that Goodell knows must be protected at all costs.

NFL logo

NFL logo

The Post obtained a letter that Cantwell and Cole drafted with Monday's date on it about their focus on changing the Redskins name. This seems like the beginning of the end of the Redskins as Washington's mascot, but even as tyrannical as Goodell can be, we are left puzzled by a few things in Washington beyond the nickname of the city's woeful NFL team.

First, to all our elected officials, and we'll type slowly so you can follow along: Get out of sports. We understand that it's an easy, support-winning position to say steroids are bad or the BCS is wrong or that "Redskins" is stereotypical and degrading, but for crying out loud there are real problems in this country and that two of 560-or-so Congress members are spending their work time on "Redskins" should be viewed as insulting to all of the country.

Second, why does it take something this small in the landscape of national issues to generate bipartisan efforts? Seriously? OK, what's next, a bipartisan letter that rainbows are nice and this winter weather stinks?

Whatever. In truth the dynamic duo of Cantwell and Cole eventually will give the Emperor Goodell his next P.R. victory by allowing him to reset the Washington club on his time and with his way.

Maybe he'll call them the Washington Rabbit's Feet.

Contact Jay Greeson at or 423-757-6273. You can follow him on Twitter @jgreesontfp and listen to "Press Row" with Jay and TFP sports writer David Paschall 3-6 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 105.1 FM or at