Mike Florio on Deshaun Watson and covers NFL controversies

Mike Florio, 57, is the creator and co-owner of ProFootballTalk, one of the nation’s leading NFL news platforms, a subsidiary of NBC Sports. Florio is co-host of “Pro Football Talk Live” and appears weekly on NBC’s “Football Night in America.” He is the author of “Playmakers: How the NFL Really Works (and Doesn’t).” Florio lives with his family in West Virginia.

The Judgment for Deshaun Watson Came – 11 game suspensions, $5 million fine. I’ve been following this closely. Were you surprised by the ruling?

I was expecting the NFL to suspend it for at least a calendar year and take any resulting consequences. And then I began to hear that there is a possibility of compromise. My guess is that the NFL Players Association dug in 10 games and the NFL wanted 12, you obviously split the teams into 11 and pushed Deshaun Watson a bit more than he wanted back on the field sooner. I’m amazed that this happened because I felt all the momentum was pointing to the NFL taking full advantage of the power they have, once they get the referee from [appointed disciplinary officer] Sue L. Robinson found that he violated the personal behavior policy in three different ways, with four different women, nonviolent sexual assault, egregious behavior, predatory behavior, and then commissioned [Roger Goodell] Talk about it at the league meeting. I thought: That’s it, game over. We will never see Deshaun Watson in 2022.

The thing that shocked me yesterday: his public comments where he said, “I stand for my innocence.” It reminded me of someone who agreed to plead guilty and then, right after the ink had dried, he said, “I didn’t do anything.”

Deshaun Watson was charged with sexual misconduct in lawsuits arising from the massage sessions; QB issues denial

There was a great response to his response.

The NFL is criticized from time to time for being so concerned about optics when it comes to such matters, but the entire policy of personal conduct is an exercise in optics. Most employers don’t care, shouldn’t care, and get into legal trouble if they try to care, for the employee’s being away from work, off-duty, off-duty, and not engaging work in any way. or model. Ninety-nine-point nine percent of American employers say that if you can come to work, it’s none of our business. And when they try to make it their business, they get themselves into trouble. But the federation and the federation have agreed that an NFL player works around the clock, 24 hours a day, wherever he is in the world. And if you get in trouble, you are penalized under the Personal Conduct Policy, so this is all an exercise in optics.

I say this as a lifelong fan: There is a constant flow of scandalous stories about the NFL. Having said that, it is not losing its grip on the American public. What do you attribute the popularity of this sport to?

There was an issue with one of the teams, years ago – I can’t remember the exact context – but I will never forget the response I got from the league. When I asked the question if this was, and what if it was, the response was: We are the ultimate reality show. This is the mentality they have adopted. Is it true that there is no such thing as bad publicity? I think at a certain point it gets a little complicated, but where the NFL benefits, especially in the season, any controversy that arises, there is always something bright and shiny in the form of another game that grabs everyone’s attention no matter what. Probably. You have all the games on Sunday, then Monday, and if anyone is upset about something that happened on Monday night, you have Thursday for everyone to forget and move on. So it is easier for them to deal with it in season because people have an insatiable appetite for the product. And the product is what gets people to either cuddle and enjoy the drama or when necessary, hold their noses and move on.

So reporting to you isn’t just about what’s happening in the field. As a sports journalist, what obligation do you feel reporting on what’s on the edges?

As a 7-year-old fan at “Pure Reception” [the Pittsburgh Steelers’ legendary game-winning reception in 1972 AFC divisional playoff game.] It happened, and a room full of adults exploded, and I realized at that point, that this is a very, very big problem. This NFL is something to watch out for. I’ve always been guided by what interests me as a fan, now it’s 50 years on and it’s still going, and there are stories that leave the realm of what’s happening on the field. I remember when I started this business, 20 years ago, I felt horribly inadequate because I had no experience in journalism, but I practiced law. It got to a point where I thought I would feel inadequate coverage of the sport if I didn’t have a law degree because often there is overlap. We try to take these issues and make them clear to people in the most understandable way possible, and that’s one of the reasons I think we’ve developed a niche for them and have kept them through years of competition. We try to bring this different option to the table everywhere we can.

Your law degree appears to be the perfect basis for explaining contracts and criminal investigations.

In one of the early days of law school in 1988, the professor explained that the most important thing he could give us was a craps filter. You develop a skill set, by practicing law, by studying people. I love watching press conferences. To see what someone said is one thing. It’s another thing to see them say that and little to tell them. I love this part of it. We are deeply committed to exposing BS, the lies wherever they are, because they are definitely everywhere in the NFL. This makes people upset. It makes fans upset. This makes the league frustrating, but we stubbornly tried to be that in order to make a difference. To always be honest and truthful with the audience, that’s the one thing that always guides you.

You’re part of this ecosystem, but you’ve been able to critically monitor what’s going on and be kind of honest with the truth.

So how can you do that? How do NFL insiders view you?

In this business, I don’t care if a certain number of people don’t like me. I didn’t do it to make friends. I didn’t do it to gain popularity. I did it because I love football. Now, some people just don’t like the way I do it. Some people don’t like that I share some explicit beliefs that they disagree with, and I’ve been fortunate that during our 13-year association with NBC, they’ve been very supportive any time the NFL has a problem with me. I respect the fact that they have always been there for me. You need this if you are going to balance that where you have a major platform but still have a standalone approach. Because it is difficult to have an independent approach if you are using a major platform. There is a certain amount of your soul that you have to chop up and sell to keep the gentlemen happy. We’ve been able to strike that balance, and I’m lucky for that. Because it is not just stubbornness on my part; You must have a partner who is willing to respect what you do, support what you do, and take stock from time to time with the NFL.

You often talk about how [NFL players] It should increase the small chance of making money and being responsible for their destinies.

What happened to me is, when you grow up and follow the NFL, the players were bigger than life. Players are super. And then as you get older, you realize one day you’re the same age as the guys. Then you realize the guys are younger than me. Then you realize that there aren’t many players older than me. What it really did for me was when my son hit college and puberty. You understand it, the issues and the challenges of being young in today’s world. It made me more sensitive to what these guys are going through. They are weak, inexperienced, confused and frightened like my son. That’s what I’m trying to do – to get people to view these players as a son, a cousin, a brother, a nephew, a friend. someone you know. Someone you care about. A person, when he has an operation, it’s not a minor surgery, it’s a major surgery. Every surgery is major surgery. It is only minor surgery when it is not being performed on you or someone you love.

This is the sound I kind of evolved into. I don’t know that it would ever have happened without me having a child who developed the same steps as I did. But it’s something I’m passionate about, and it has bothered some people. People do not like to have their enjoyment of the sport disrupted by any of the broader ethical wrestling matches. There is a conflict with the team. Why are you angry with the player? The player got one chance to get enough money to take care of him and his family. The owners are really taken care of, and will do so again and again.

When it comes to both, the public will line up behind the owners.

Well, I think from the perspective of people who don’t have a lot of money, there is very little difference between billionaires and millionaires – and there is a huge difference between millionaires and billionaires! And a lot of players aren’t even millionaires. Lots of guys earn – I know to say only $600,000, but compared to Tom Brady or some star players, it’s a lot of money compared to what the owners have. It’s a peanut pussiness, Homer Simpson said. There is a little Jerry Seinfeld [has] It’s been done over the years, where when you’re a sports fan, you’re just rooting for the wash. You don’t root for the people who wear it, and if the guy leaves and is wearing different clothes, you hate him, and if he’s wearing your clothes, you love him. The common bond between the fan and the owner is that they support this wash. Players will come and go.

Robin Rose Parker is a Maryland-based writer. This interview has been edited and condensed. For a longer version, visit wapo.st/magazine.

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