Yes, Roger Goodell, the NFL newsroom’s lack of Black journalists is still a big problem

OPINION: Without a representative number of Black journalists covering a predominantly Black league, the public is subject to receive whitewashed versions of reality.

Super Bowl LVIII - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Press Conference
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell listens to a question during a news conference ahead of Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium on February 05, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell must be tired of questions about the league’s hiring record for Black personnel besides the padded and helmeted employees. I suspect many NFL owners, executives and fans feel likewise, sick of queries about employment decisions off the field — where jobs don’t require physical strength to complement your mental prowess.

But if Goodell and league stakeholders are weary of the discussion, they can imagine how we feel! 

We’re supposed to accept the drip drops of progress and believe the system is based on merit? Hateful diversity, equity and inclusion assailants have swallowed the Kool-Aid but we can’t keep it down. Our stomachs reject such drivel and spit it out. 

Goodell tried to clean the mess Monday for the third straight year at his annual Super Bowl press conference. Even though former NFL Network reporter Jim Trotter didn’t attend, Goodell was asked again about the league’s newsroom demographics. Because Black reporters and editors want opportunities in the NFL as much as Black executives and coaches.

“I know you don’t run the NFL media newsroom, but you do run the NFL, and they answer to you as well as the 32 owners,” Kansas City radio reporter Darren Smith began in addressing Goodell. “As of this press conference, the NFL Media newsroom still employs zero Black managers, zero Black copy editors, zero full-time Black employees on the news desk, and your only full-time Black employee, Larry Campbell, passed away over the weekend.”

Smith noted that Trotter asked similar questions in 2022 and 2023 before his contract wasn’t renewed and a lawsuit followed. “In a league that has more than 60% African Americans that have played the game,” Smith asked, “how does knowing this sit well with you, and after two years of being asked this question, why has there not been any change or any hirings in that area?”

You could’ve predicted the response. Goodell’s gig demands mastery in the art of avoiding accountability. He’s certified as a 3-D superstar in that regard.

Deny: “Well, I disagree completely that there hasn’t been any change,” Goodell said in response to Smith. “I’m happy to get your data and share it with our people and make sure that we get an answer for you. I don’t have all the data.”

Deflect: “I will tell you that for the first time, 51% of our employees across the league, across the network, across all of our media platforms, not including players, are either people of color or women,” Goodell said. “First time ever.”

Diffuse: “So progress is being made,” he said. “And there are areas where we still need to work and we still need to improve, whether it’s offensive assistants or maybe people within our media newsroom. We will continue to do that, and make significant progress, as we have.”

We’ve made significant progress since 1865, too, but that doesn’t change systemic inequality in the nation or Smith’s numbers on the NFL newsroom.

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Trotter posted a clip of the Q&A and confirmed Smith’s accuracy on reporting zero Black managers, copy editors and full-time employees on the news desk. “Those are the facts,” Trotter tweeted, adding that Goodell “simply doesn’t care or doesn’t want to know.”

He should care and know about Campbell, the producer who passed away at age 49. “Pretty much any show that you have watched on NFL Network over the last 17 years … Larry Campbell had a hand in producing,” host Andrew Siciliano said Monday in an on-air tribute. Host Steve Wyche – like Trotter, a Howard alum — noted that Campbell was a fellow HBCU grad (Central State).  

“Personally to me — Larry being the only Black full-time person in this newsroom — to now see his seat hollow, that’s a vacancy that we’re all going to miss,” Wyche said. “Bless up to his family. This is a big blow to those of us here at the NFL Network.”

Fragile white cousins lose their minds at the thought of diversity, equity and inclusion sweeping through historically pale spaces. They wonder what’ll be left if we gain fair shots at quarterback, head coach and general manager or if we land more opportunities as writers, editors and producers.

The NFL just set a precedent by hiring four coaches of color (three of them Black) in one cycle. Five team presidents are Black, an all-time high, and the league set another mark with eight Black general managers before Washington replaced Martin Mayhew last month. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, attempting to win his third Super Bowl, is one of a record 14 Black QBs who started in Week 1. 

Incremental advances, indeed, except among those who cover the league and might reveal racism in high places like the owners’ suites. Editorial decisions matter, determining what to report and how to frame it. Without a representative number of Black journalists covering a predominantly Black league, the public is subject to receive whitewashed versions of reality.

How many spots do we want? There’s no specific number, but zero doesn’t cut it.

We’ll check again next year, Rog.


Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at blackdoorventures.com/deron.

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