PR in Sports

Looking at the World of Sports from a PR Perspecitve

Could Keith Olbermann be a PR Problem for Roger Goodell and the NFL?

with 8 comments

I was having an e-mail discussion with my buddy Chappy Wednesday morning. Chappy lives in Boston, and if you regularly read this blog you know I’ve lived there as well, so our discussion inevitably ended up on the Massachusetts Senate results. We discussed a few different aspects of the race, which eventually led to Keith Olbermann’s comments following the outcome, a win by Republican Scott Brown.

When discussing Olbermann’s editorial, our exchange went into whether Olbermann poses a PR problem for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. If you remember, it wasn’t too long ago that Goodell had some harsh words for Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh was attempting to become a minority owner with a group looking to buy the St. Louis Rams. The basis of Goodell’s objection to Limbaugh being part of the NFL was that “divisive comments” have no place in the NFL.

What does this have to do with Keith Olbermann? For those that don’t know, besides having his own show on MSNBC, Olbermann also co-hosts NBC’s Football Night in America, the NFL’s primetime Sunday night showcase each week.

There’s no question Goodell was under pressure to respond to criticism, whether right or wrong, about Limbaugh’s bid to become an owner. But, by entering the Limbaugh debate so strongly, did Goodell open himself up to answering what exactly is divisive language, from a political perspective, according to the NFL? It’s not out of the realm that reporters, or political groups with an agenda for that matter, could call for Goodell to respond to whether Olbermann’s comments are “divisive”.

Now, this is a Sports PR/Marketing blog, not a political blog, so I’m not really interested in debating conservative/liberal or Limbaugh/Olbermann, at least not in this space.

The question is, did Goodell overplay his hand with Limbaugh, almost setting a precedent where he has to respond when anyone affiliated with the NFL enters political debate? Is it out of line to question Goodell about whether Olbermann is too “divisive” to co-host Football Night in America? Should the NFL just stay away from extreme political commentators/figures playing a visible role in the league?

What say you?

Disclaimer: I hope we can have a healthy debate in the comments section, sticking to the PR aspects of this topic. Any comments using crude language or attacking another poster will be deleted.

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Written by Brian Gleason

January 21, 2010 at 1:27 am

8 Responses

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  1. Apparently in the middle of Brown’s acceptance speech Olberman chimed in with an “apology” for what he said. He repeated exactly what he said previously and said that he “was sorry he left out the word sexist”. This in the middle of the acceptance speech


    January 21, 2010 at 9:44 am

  2. Obermouth is blow hard. When he is on we turn NBC off. My wife and I watch the game. This is it. I flip over to ESPN. You can’t have it both ways. Roger Goodell is a hypocrite. He doesn’t want devisive comments. How about the minority owners of the Miami Dolphins. The Who performing at halftime of the Super Bowl. Peter Townsend of the Who- Child porn King. The list never ends. The NFL is going to kill itself. The NFL forgot its roots.


    January 21, 2010 at 10:25 am

    • Hi Bobby,

      Thanks for checking out the blog, much appreciated! I think Goodell definitely has a bit of problem here, although he may or may not be questioned on it. Diving so strongly into the Limbaugh issue has opened him up to having to answer about all the different people you mentioned. It will be interesting to see if this becomes an issue or not.


      Brian Gleason

      January 21, 2010 at 1:02 pm

  3. Great post! Goodell’s reaction to Rush makes this a legitimate question. However, how much control does the Commish have over Olbermann being on Football Night in America since it’s an NBC-thing. I’m sure he could apply some pressure. But, NBC is a liberal network and I’m sure they have no problem with Olbermann’s view. It would take viewer complaints, and a lot of them. Politics aside, I had less of a problem with a political personality being a part-owner than I do with one providing commentary on my sports. Just my opinion. Also, to me, the reuniting of Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann hasn’t rekindled the Sportscenter magic I’m sure NBC intended.

    I think this whole thing should be a big story, but unfortunately (and sadly) I don’t think it will be noticed.

    Brent Rinehart

    January 21, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    • Thanks Brent, appreciate you taking a look and leaving your thoughts. While Goodell doesn’t have direct control over who hosts Football Night, or even who calls games on the other networks, there’s no doubt he can have a considerable amount of influence. But you’re right, it would also take viewer complaints and public pressure as well.

      But, the real point is that, while at the time a response to Rush criticism seemed warranted, it really painted him into a corner for situations as the one with Olbermann. In the end, I think you’re right, this will probably just blow over without any real pressure put on Goodell.

      Brian Gleason

      January 21, 2010 at 9:25 pm

  4. I just have to wonder if Roger’s wife, and my old friend Jane Skinner is asking him every night when they both get home from work, why the hell he has olberwoman on an NFL show????

    matthew s harrison

    January 22, 2010 at 11:19 am

    • Hi Matt,

      Thanks for commenting, much appreciated. Very interesting point, I guess his wife hasn’t brought it up, or else Olbermann would probably be off 🙂

      Brian Gleason

      January 22, 2010 at 2:54 pm

  5. My thoughts are why do political figures/commentators need to be involved in the NFL? Why can’t politics be politics and sports be sports? I understand there being some politics littered through all aspects of life (job, sports…..and politics) but why take the key aspect of sports (enjoyment…at least for me) and have it ruined by more political shenanigans? I want to enjoy my sports as sports and my politics as politics! I also believe Goodell opened the door….we’ll see who else decides to step in and create some PR nightmares next.

    Josh Gould

    April 25, 2011 at 11:37 pm

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