Jim Trotter, one of the most respected and thorough journalists in sports media, wouldn’t stop asking NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about the league’s lack of diversity in its head-coaching and front-office ranks, as well as within NFL Media’s newsroom.
So NFL Media got rid of Trotter, one of the few non-athlete Black analysts it had. On Monday, Trotter announced that his tenure with NFL Media was ending.
“Some personal news: This will be my final week with the NFL Media Group. I was informed over the weekend that my contract is not being renewed,” Trotter tweeted. “I thank NFL Network and NFL.com for the lessons learned and affirmed over the last five years.”
Nothing says “commitment to diversity” like letting go of a Black employee who asks why actions don’t match up with flowery statements, especially as the league is being sued by three Black coaches, alleging racist hiring practices, and it exiled a Black quarterback for protesting the wanton killing of people who look like him by agents of the state.
The NFL has long since stopped pretending that it cares about public perception or possible backlash, or simply doing the right thing. So the decision was made not to renew Trotter’s contract.
Knowing Trotter a bit, the “learned and affirmed” line was intentional.
A spokesman for NFL Media declined comment via email.
During his time with NFL Media, Trotter was one of the few reporters at the league-owned network and website who was critical of the NFL, especially when it came to its stated commitment to diversity and equity, and treatment of women versus reality, which tells a far different story.
It’s what journalists are supposed to do: ask questions of those in power to hold them to account for their actions.
The problem with league-owned and team-owned media operations is that often they aren’t interested in journalism. They’re extensions of the team’s public relations offices, touting “exclusive” interviews between a host and the new offensive coordinator when in reality it’s a softball-filled on-camera chat between co-workers whose paychecks are signed by the same person.
The NFL hates being questioned, especially by a well-researched, well-respected reporter who is calling Goodell to account on his annual moment in the sun during the week of the Super Bowl. It’s much better to let well-paid “insiders” do the league’s bidding since their first commitment is to be the first to break “news” that’s going to be sent out to the public 90 seconds later in a release. They never ask why the NFL believes painting “END RACISM” in end zones is anything more than performative drivel, or why the league continues to protect Dan Snyder despite an ever-growing mountain of allegations, or what steps if any the league took after the The New York Times’ 2022 story uncovering a “stifling, deeply ingrained corporate culture that demoralized some female employees, drove some to quit in frustration and left many feeling brushed aside” within its league office in New York.
Trotter asked those questions of Goodell in the forum he did because he had no other option. Although Goodell as the league commissioner is the de facto head of NFL Media and the league office sets NFL Media’s annual budget, Trotter did not get access to Goodell except for at those annual State of the League sessions before the Super Bowl.
He never got an answer to his question, either. Not at the moment in Phoenix in February, and Trotter told sports media reporter Richard Deitsch that no one with the league followed up with him post-Super Bowl on his questions about the persistently homogeneous hiring practices, this year or last.
The league has long since stopped pretending that it cares about silly little things like public sentiment or doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. And Monday, we found out that includes keeping a journalist on staff who asks better from his employer.