BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 06/12/2020

Thiel: Carroll says players drive the NFL. Nope

Pete Carroll believes players drive the NFL. Nice sentiment, but no. It’s the owners. They cower behind Roger Goodell, unwilling to take personal responsibility.

Coach Pete Carroll thinks the NFL “has the platform to do great stuff.” Do the owners care?  / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Regarding the influence of the NFL in America’s culture wars, Pete Carroll was as right as he was hyperbolic.

‘The NFL is as powerful an institution as there is in the country,” he said in an oral waterfall disguised as a Zoom conference Thursday with Seattle reporters. “This frickin’ league needs to stand up for the right stuff, and make things move where we can make things move.

“We have a lot of power. Something happens, and next thing you know the president is commenting on it. We have the platform to do great stuff.”

But apparently he and I disagree on where the power resides. The Seahawks coach went on a long soliloquy contending the power of the NFL rests with players.

“I see it even more so now that this is a league driven by the players,” he said, getting a little emotional. “It’s driven by their love for the game, their willingness to play the game that they love, and the things that they risk to do it . . .

“Way back (in) the history of the league, those guys made this game come to life, because they went out there and played when the freaking equipment was all screwed up, they took all the hits, they endured when they were making four or five thousand dollars a game, and gave their life to it.”

Before I mist up and slap on my leather helmet for a charge into a wall, I will suggest this league is driven by the owners.

Because if it were driven by the players, we sure as hell wouldn’t be having a talk about a blackballed Colin Kaepernick, or players having to swallow being called sons of bitches by the president in a speech.

There’s no way players with average career lengths of less than three years have any leverage over billionaires who have called shots for decades. Sopranos-like, owners set policy, terms, conditions and attitudes if you want in on the action.

Fans may love Russell Wilson’s two-minute drives and Odell Beckham’s one-handed catches, but players have zero chance to influence outcomes on social and political issues that inevitably play out on the gridiron crucible.

Until maybe now.

When Commissioner Roger Goodell was intimidated by a players’ video into reciting the players’ requested admission of guilt regarding the league’s woeful disregard of social justice issues, the NFL was upon a watershed moment.

“We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” Goodell said in a video response. “We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”

As far as I know, Goodell has not caught hell from owners for caving. Maybe they praised him, or at least acknowledged he was in a hostage situation. The point is, we have heard nothing from the citadel of power. Since Goodell is Smeagol to the owners’ collective Sauron, don’t they have the decisive word?

Which is why I tried to get Carroll to answer a question about whether he could enlist his boss, Seahawks owner Jody Allen, to lobby her fellow owners for some individual accountability, instead of hiding behind Goodell’s office.

To hear Jerry Jones or Bob Kraft talk about falling short and failing the players would have signaled the dawn of enlightenment (cue herald trumpets).

“Roger made his comment, he felt it was time to do that, so he did it,” Carroll said, not clear about my question, which was my bad. “I don’t have any thing to add to you about what other owners are going to do.”

Instead he took the ownership question to heap praise on his boss.

“You guys don’t know Jody Allen very well,” he said. “She’s got a extraordinary perspective. She’s got a strength to her. She’s got a toughness to her.”

Well there’s a reason we don’t know her, right?

“She’s has not been available to you yet,” Carroll said about the mysterious inheritor of the Allen family throne. “But when you see where she’s coming from, you’ll see she’s got great power and strength.

“I would welcome the chance for her to be in those discussions with other owners, so that she can represent a perspective that will make us all proud.”

So Pete, ahead of that, can you facilitate a Zoom meeting with Jodi, so we can get to know her? You said you would go to any length to make progress.

“She’s a treasure,” he said. “You know, I’ll say something to her. I’ll help you. I’d like that to happen, but she’s going to do what she wants to do.”

Well. A baby step forward. A commitment to try, on the record.

If Allen is as formidable and as socially conscious as Carroll has advertised, I can’t think of a better time for the franchise to bring such an asset to the public table.

If there ever was a moment to hurl a Baptist-preacher sermon upon NFL owners, raining down hellfire and damnation upon the gilded unwashed for being personally unaccountable, it is now, when they are scared.

Fercripesakes, NASCAR just told its Confederate-flag-waving fans to drop dead.

Is it asking to too much for Jones, Kraft and cronies to admit personally to their black employees they personally screwed up, and vow to make it right? If the NFL is as powerful an institution as there is in the country, it should be able to handle the truth.

Can’t wait for Allen to help this frickin’ league stand up for the right stuff.



  • Mark Stratton

    I believe you hit the nail on the head; Goodell and the NFL were in a hostage situation and he did what he had to do to get them out. Words are cheap.

    This rare and hard-bought opportunity to have the uncomfortable conversations KJ Wright alluded to will be wasted if the looting and violence don’t stop. The entire country was united in condemning what happened to George Floyd and I believe we were ready for those conversations. But the peaceful protests have been hijacked, and the
    good will required seems to be dissipating due to all the unrelated nonsense.
    Someone needs to emerge and lead us to the next step. It won’t be Donald Trump or Al Sharpton; they are two sides of the same coin.

    • art thiel

      The outlaws who rode in on the coats of the protesters — long a common occurrence in major civic disturbances — are largely nihilists who have no affiliations beyond destruction for its own sake. But the sideshow violence is abating, and the “goodwill” you referred to dwindles only if and when people like you and me, and others who look like us, cease to care.

      • Mark Stratton

        I’ve always cared as have you. Caring and acting are two different things however. The time to act is now but our collective attention span is short.

        I don’t agree that whites have to lead this discussion Black folks need to be specific and clear as to what they want/need. I have my opinions but they don’t mean squat. Justice is a great word but it means something different to everyone

        • art thiel

          There will always be disagreements among the aggrieved about priorities. But I find it hard to believe that by now, after 250 years of slavery, more than 100 years of Jim Crow, up to the knee on the neck of Floyd, you need a “specific and clear” list. That’s a white man’s cop-out.

          • Mark Stratton

            Resorting to insults is a clear indication of a lack knowledge or ideas. Disappointing.

            I keep hearing about money. The NFL owners are pledging a relative pittance, the mayor of LA wants to divert funds from police for the minority community etc. More money will only assuage the consciences of white people for a little while, and Al Sharpton will get richer, but that’s about it. Over 50 years and $15-20 Trillion of the Great Society and in many ways blacks are worse off now than they were in the ’60’s. Well-intentioned programs have done nothing but trap millions of people in a cycle of poverty. I believe throwing more money at the problem just reinforces the status quo. Inner-city public schools are an absolute disgrace and might be the exception. More funding might help the schools, but the current administrators are more the issue.

            What’s the answer? I don’t know, and neither do you, which was my original point. But I do know that there will be no lasting solution unless we have a two-way conversation. Whites have obvious work to do, but blacks need to clean up their act as well. I believe in Black Lives Matter, but it would have more meaning to more people if blacks didn’t slaughter each other at astonishing rates in places like Chicago, Baltimore, Atlanta, Oakland, and many other big cities. That is one of several inter-related issues that have to be addressed. The ultimate answer is to help blacks be more successful so they can lift themselves up. Isn’t that what you’d want?

          • art thiel

            What I do know is that black-on-black crime is a terrible excuse for foot-dragging by whites in acknowledging the systemic racism that sets up entire communities for failure. Black-on-black crime is an outcome, not a source of the problem.

            The ultimate answer? You’re right, Mark. I’m not sure. But a part of it includes abandoning the concept of “helping blacks to be more successful so they can lift themselves up.” What we white folks need to do is get out of their damn way. A lot of federal programs over 70 years have had positive impacts, but often get thwarted by often subtle racism by individuals in housing, education, public health as well as policing that no federal program or law can influence.

            If you didn’t care, Mark, you wouldn’t be corresponding with me. But I encourage you during this wrenching time to truly listen to what black people are saying without offering a counter-argument. I’m not saying they’re always right and you’re always wrong, but sometimes a “two-way conversation” includes plain listening, not defending.

          • Husky73

            Mark Stratton makes some thought provoking points. But, it’s very dangerous right now for fear of saying what may well be the truthful and well meaning, but wrong things.

          • Mark Stratton

            I understand the concerns about timing. But it seems that even though protests are ongoing the momentum for real change is waning. Distractions like CHAZ will cause many Americans to roll their eyes and go back to their daily lives. The spectrum of grievances grows ever wider and dilutes the main message. We need a strong majority on both sides of the political spectrum to cause change. That majority was in full force two weeks ago, but attention spans are short. I fear we’re going to end up with some relatively mild police reforms, more police training, a bunch of cash sprinkled on activist groups, and then things will go back to the way they were. Until it happens again.

            I’ve been listening and caring for a long time. Keep in mind that most of America is not like the PNW. I grew up in Chicago and spent my twenties living in the deep south. I regularly witnessed blatant racist acts and comments that made me want to retch. Even had the privilege of being thrown out of bars because I brought black friends along. I realize my bio is not germane to the topic, but the perspective I gained is.

            Husky73 offers evidence of the strange times in which we live: We can say something that is undeniably true, with nothing but the best intentions, but still be ‘wrong’. This may not be the time or place, and being white I’m not the person to advance these issues, but I maintain that nothing will truly change until they are addressed.

            Art alludes to the cause and effect of well-intentioned programs that have had the effect of locking many people of all races into a cycle of poverty and self-destructive behavior. That has to be taken into account, and resources redirected. But it’s only part of the story. Here’s a link to an article in the WSJ by a long-time black columnist with research from the Washington Post. This article is eye-opening though it omits a major issue;

            I appreciate the forum and opportunity to express my views.


      • Husky73

        “They’re nihilists, man. They said they believe in nothing”…..”Say what you will about the Nazis, but at least they had an ethos.” (The Big Lebowski)

  • Robert Rhodes

    I believe the owners ought to gather for an in-person meeting with Colin Kaepernick to listen to whatever he has to say. Then, as a expression of respect and regret, they ought to appear in public and announce reparations to him in the form of the salary he’d likely have earned had he not been blackballed. That response would make a statement that owners understand the harm they’ve caused and are going to make amends. It’s what parents teach their children to do. It would be a fitting foundation for the whatever other actions they decide to take.

    • art thiel

      Nice idea, but Kap already accepted a settlement to end his 2019 lawsuit claiming the owners colluded. So, again, the NFL threw money at a problem to make it go away. Tthe doc was sealed so there will be no public expression of regret.

      • Robert Rhodes

        If there is no public expression of regret it won’t be because the Doc is sealed, It will be because the owners haven’t the moral fiber to take personal responsibility and do the right thing. That is what I liked about Elway’s statement, and others, too. They took personal responsbility. The owners expect Roger Goodell to take responsibility on their behalf. I suppose they’ll point to the $250M as evidence of their concern. It’s nice and it will matter to those who receive it. But, it is an easy lift. For the owners, $25M a year is a rounding error. Modeling what taking responsibility looks like and setting an personal, public example — that would be noteworthy. Anything else is just posturing.

        • art thiel

          That’s my point — personal accountability. The twin pandemics have created an unparalleled national emergency, compounded by a massive failure of federal leadership. We need leadership from private individuals of great wealth, such as the stewards of our sports franchises, to declare and act on their commitments to change.

  • coug73

    Two thumbs up, Art. I like your perspective. Coach Bubbles is really working the narrative that things are better than they show. A waterfall of words, indeed.

    • art thiel

      I know that Carroll is sincere, but he needs to gain traction with people above his station. Otherwise he’s preaching mostly to the choir.

  • Seattle Psycho

    Good luck getting Jerry, Kraft, Snyder and the others who have contributed large amounts to the trump campaign to say anything. Don’t want to piss of their teams’ fans or be identified as part of the problem by the current Oval Office occupier.

    • art thiel

      That has always been true. But is it true now? The last couple of weeks have made it clear to many how profound is our cultural fracture. The owners can continue to back their guy, which is equivalent to supporting the second president of Confederacy while operating a labor force that is 70 percent black. Good luck with that.

  • Will Ganschow

    I thought you liked living in Seattle.

    • art thiel

      I always have enjoyed these parts. And I have enjoyed being around the local football coach who enjoys being challenged.

  • tor5

    I’m a big Pete fan and believe he is trying to play a positive role. But I also really like that you’re challenging him, Art. It’s a window of opportunity RIGHT NOW. I feel like I’m being challenged to think harder and reexamine how things are and how they could be. We all should be so challenged by this moment. I hope Jody Allen can sense that too.

    • art thiel

      Justifiably, we white folks are being made uncomfortable, which I believe is a whole lot less difficult than the experience of black folks. I am asking Carroll, who is indeed a player advocate, to make himself uncomfortable by managing up to his boss by asking her to do something uncomfortable.

      • art thiel

        By putting up with wise-guy commenters, my uncomfortable work is underway. Please pass on your address so I can visit your work and learn.

  • James

    As the late Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.”

    • art thiel

      Yes. He did a great job in pulling back the curtain a bit.

  • Guy K. Browne

    Astonishing in many ways that wealthy (mostly) men that wield the power of their position in society with impunity, continue to cower behind a mostly powerless figurehead; Goodell can’t likely burp without consent from the ownership group. Maybe we’ll be lucky and Ms. Allen will show the good ol’ boys how it’s done. I’m not holding by breath, but I can be hopeful.

    • art thiel

      The first commissioner was in MLB, where his charge was restoring public credibility after the Black Sox scandal. Over time, the jobs have morphed into marketing executives who also take the arrows of scandal so the powers that be have no blood on their suits.

      Jody Allen has a rare position of no previous affiliations with other owners, so there are no friends to protect. Plus she’s richer than all of them.

      • Guy K. Browne

        And, well paid human shields they are. All are white (as far as I can remember) and they seem to get increasingly insipid from one to the next. Pure vanilla in so many ways.
        As for Jody Allen, not enough is known about her for me to be critical, it’s not my place. Paul Allen bought the team, she didn’t really ask to be in this position. She could choose to sell the team and bow out, I doubt that any new owners would bring additional enlightenment.

        • art thiel

          It’s true that Jody Allen didn’t ask for the job, but Carroll’s glowing endorsement of her made her sound so wonderful that it seemed to invite engagement. I’m game.

    • Kirkland

      I recall a writer/journalist who wrote a book about the modern Senate, and then another one about NFL owners. He said the two groups were exactly alike: old, rich, white and insecure. That may be why both are afraid to say anything that would irk Trump or (for the latter) reactionary fans and group ticket buyers.

      Rams owner Stan Kroenke gives an average of one interview per two decades (not much of an exaggeration), so there’s precedence for owners not named Jones or Cuban to avoid microphones. Is Jody Allen simply not willing to make public statements out of a desire to keep as low a profile as possible, or is she being advised against/protected from public statements by personal or Seahawks P.R. staff? I do wonder what her late brother would be saying in public right now.

      • art thiel

        I believe her public silence is her choice. She’s in charge of the Vulcan empire.

        I understand there are consequences to pissing off Trump, but none quite as severe as a knee pressed to one’s throat for eight minutes.

  • Hockeypuck

    In a similarly disingenuous statement, Coach Wonka was quoted today saying he “regrets” not signing Colin Kaepernick to a contract in 2017. He also said the Seahawks wouldn’t sign him now because they “are happy with their quarterback situation.” They waited until 2 weeks ago to sign their current backup. Who’s a better quarterback, Kap or Geno Smith? This ass-clown needs to STFU. He’s a cross between Tony Robbins and Elmer Gantry….

    • art thiel

      Disagree with your characterizations, but Carroll is trying to have it both ways. His words are supportive of Kap, but the actions speak more clearly. If he simply said that he didn’t think Kap would be satisfied as Wilson’s backup, it’s a football decision that all parties, including most fans, would accept. His admission of “regrets” was a bridge too far to be credible.

    • DB

      Pete didn’t say that he regretted not signing Kap. He said that he regretted that it didn’t work out. People seem to forget that it isn’t just a matter of some team signing Kap. He has to agree with the role and the money. If he would have been willing to accept a backup role and money, he might well have gotten signed. Kap made it clear he expected starter money and to be the starter.

  • Archangelo Spumoni

    So far, the comments are nearly all spot-on with respect to the power structure, society, the owners, the players, the coaches, the commissioner, and the Oval Office.
    What is missing in the discussion is how weak the NFL players are compared especially to their brethren in the other pro sports, and ESPECIALLY baseball, whose union was led by the great Marvin Miller. Obviously there are different issues today with respect to the virus, but the baseball players’ union is the strongest on the planet and they are in a different position of authority

    The NFL players are weak because of (1) short careers, AND (2) sca*s like Steve Largent, Joe Montana, Howie Long, Tony Dorsett, et al. The sca*s I list here had the least to lose compared to the “middle class” of pro football players; the difference here is all the best baseball players were 100% union during their various disputes.

    Rest assured if the NFL players had a stronger union and had not been weakened by sca*s like Largent, this whole power structure would be far different.

    • art thiel

      The reasons for the differences between MLBPA and NFLPA are too long to list here, but yes, a stronger football union would have helped. The union’s job is primarily CBA negotiations. In these current events, its role is secondary. The union’s role here is mostly defensive, making sure no player is punished for words or behavior protected by the CBA.

  • jafabian

    Just the coach trying to keep the peace but fact of the matter is players are replaceable. When Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers leave the game Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson will replace them. And when they leave Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson will step up. Or whatever order comes up. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the old guard NFL owners handle this later on. At some point they have to acknowledge current events and enter the 21st century despite their reluctance to do so. Is it too much to ask for da Raiders to sign Kaep?

    • art thiel

      I don’t know when “later on” is. I’m interested in their responses right now.

      • jafabian

        Me too. But I’m fully confident that Jones, Kraft and others won’t give a statement until they’re forced to do so. And even then some will probably do so thru the club. And probably during exhibition season. I hope Dak Prescott brings this up in his contract negotiations.

  • Husky73

    I disagree. Neither players nor owners “drive the NFL.” Television does. Follow the money.

    • Tian Biao

      well, yes, but the TV money flows into the pockets of the owners. that’s where the buck stops.

    • art thiel

      TV is neither the creator of the content nor its manager. It is a third-party vendor. An influential role, but not in charge.

  • Tian Biao

    I would like to add my voice to all the readers who are encouraged and enlightened by Art’s reporting and his perspective. the general tone of the comments section is also encouraging. the problem is real, and most readers appear willing to accept that it is real, and hopefully do something about it. it’s heartening.

    • art thiel

      Thanks. Sports inevitably is wrapped up in life’s hazards and joys, so to ignore the twin pandemics would be negligent. I do have a point of view on these things. Some readers disagree, and as long as we attempt civility, they are free to write here.

      Which is one way to say, I miss lately 1coolguy and his fellow travelers who disagree.

      • James

        Coolguy and his type got schooled. Not sure why you miss threats of violence by him.

        • art thiel

          I don’t miss the over-the-top crap. But most of us get carried away once in awhile and regret it. My aspiration is to make a living in a place of the exchange of ideas, not an echo chamber. Toleration is warranted. But there’s a threshold.

  • James

    You seem like the type of SFB that supports a certain POS that won’t release his tax returns after promising to do so. The POS also refuses to release the Mueller Report, and refuses to cooperate with numerous other investigations. Go back and crawl back inside your comfortable FAUX News Ignorance Haven.

    • art thiel

      James, I get the passion, but let’s do better than name-calling and insults. Anyone can do that.

      • James

        There’s just as much need to call out ignorance as racism in this country. Evil, ignorance, and racism go hand-in-hand after all.

  • art thiel

    Who is “us”, CHAZHX? At least I’m willing to put my real name to my public words, as I have for decades. You? Please don’t tell me you fear a few snowflakes.

    • James

      Obviously you don’t care about humans since you have no qualms about spreading coronavirus.

    • art thiel

      Weak, Chaz. I’m providing time and space for an exchange of ideas, including yours, hopefully free of personal denigrations. Few other sports platforms are doing that. Yet you want to make it personal while hiding behind anonymity. I appreciate but do not require IDs, and I respect people who have the courage to publicly stand behind their convictions.

  • woofer

    Sounds like y’all got a full dose of Pete the Prophet. A visionary creates his own reality. Don’t weigh him down with mere dry facts. Maybe he should run for president. If he can make Jody Allen into a fiery crusader, he can probably do anything. He would surely be a lot more fun than the guy we have now.

    • art thiel

      My question is whether his message and platform can work going up as well as down. It isn’t a question of facts. He’s in a rare position of being a successful white coach with a proud social conscience in a labor force with a large black majority.

    • Kirkland

      Pete’s press conferences in the Oval Office would be a lot more interesting, never mind informative, than the current occupant’s.

  • Seattle Lifer

    If the money is there to “talk nice/real” about racism, then the owners will step up. If they see more money or at least equal money in the status-quo, nothing will change. In my opinion, this is true of just about any sport. NASCAR (if you really want to call it a sport) has been in serious trouble as it loses money year after year after year. They cannot lose much more if they embrace removing the flag of losers. They are in a “no win” situation. I am waiting to see MLB and the NBA make some sort of statement other than weak platitudes. But again, the owners are waiting to see which way the money blows.

  • Stephen Pitell

    I have advocated the requirement that people use their real names on the internet, and I believe that such a rule would mostly eliminate the unpleasantness that exists on most internet sites with public comments.