The NFL had to know how its network’s decision not to renew reporter Jim Trotter’s contract would play among people who pay attention to the league’s business.
I debated whether to tackle this, but this feels like another avoidable PR misstep for an organization that I beg to be better. Try to find anyone who doesn’t believe that Trotter is an upstanding journalist. In my opinion, you won’t. As someone who specializes in the publicity side of life, I go beyond obvious character in this post. It’s what I think would have been a better option for NFL Media Group.
One of the most respected journalists in the country, Trotter questioned NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell during Super Bowl week about the league’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. A member of NFL Media for the last five years, he knew there were no Black editors and no Black full-time reporters on staff and mentioned that to Goodell. Only weeks later, he learned his contract wouldn’t be renewed. Are the two related? Goodell denies knowing what his media group does, but a lot of people are connecting dots. Perception equals reality to them.
NFL Media announced earlier this month that it would tighten budgets which would likely affect jobs. We get it. A lot of organizations reduce staff and spending for a variety of reasons. Even those backed by a league with mega-billion-dollar valuations. Trotter is not the only reporter to lose his job there.
There was a better PR, more productive option.
A productive move that would have resulted in positive publicity would have been for the NFL to invite him to further discuss newsroom inequity. Acknowledge the lack of full-time Black journalists in an organization that covers athletes that are nearly 60 percent Black. Ask for candidate suggestions.
There are reasons why employing people who look like and relate to one of your main demographics matters. Commonalities lead to meaningful connections and reduce the chance of stereotypes. Understanding and empathy among all parties help foster respect. While the NFL has improved in some areas, it’s remained stagnant in others.
Did Jim overstep?
Questioning someone who heads the league you cover might seem brazen, but Trotter has long been a journalist in every sense — a reporter known for research-to-truth. NFL leadership says it wants to be held accountable for its actions but even when presented with its own statistics, it feigns ignorance. Ironic after Goodell’s famous, “ignorance is no excuse” comment regarding “Bountygate.”
You want Trotter on your team.
Reporters like Jim Trotter make us think, which in turn, makes us smarter. His being ushered away from NFL Media is more than another league PR blemish. It will be a gaping loss for that group and a major win for someone else’s.
©Gail Sideman, gpublicity.com 2023