Posted by Mike Florio on July 19, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT
The NFL privately bristles at the notion that it strategically dumps bad news on Friday afternoons. Setting aside for now the question of whether it makes sense to dump bad news on Friday afternoons (and it does), the NFL in recent years actually has used the tactic somewhat sparingly.
Ben Volin of the Boston Globe has compiled a list of several significant instances in the past year of NFL bad news and when it was announced. Let’s look at each one.
First, it’s important to remember a couple of examples predating Volin’s list. In 2012, the NFL disclosed for the first time the existence of an alleged Saints bounty scandal during a very late Friday afternoon in March. Two years later, Ted Wells released his report regarding the bullying of Jonathan Martin late on a Friday morning.
Volin first points out that the initial Ray Rice two-game suspension came on Thursday, July 24, at 1:12 p.m. ET. For those sensitive to the perception of dumping bad news on a Friday, Thursday has become the new Friday; it’s possible the NFL specifically picked Thursday for the Rice suspension to put it late in the week but not so late that jerks like me would cry, “Bad news dump!”
(The embarrassing Ray and Janay Rice press conference at Ravens headquarters, during which she publicly apologized for her role in getting knocked out, occurred late on a Friday afternoon at the start of Memorial Day weekend in 2014. It was perhaps the worst time to have a press conference if the goal was to have people notice — and the best time to have a press conference if the goal was to have people not notice. People still noticed.)
The Ray Rice indefinite suspension came on Monday, September 8, but only because video of Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée emerged that same day. (The Ravens cut Rice at nearly the same time the league suspended him indefinitely.)
Adrian Peterson’s suspension came on Tuesday, November 18. Still, the decision to shut Peterson down early in the week likely was influenced by the reality that, if a player is going to be suspended during the season, it needs to happen before Wednesday morning, when preparations begin in earnest for the next game. Peterson had resolved his criminal case, and the league couldn’t continue to park him on the paid leave list without the whole thing smelling even worse than it already did.
The 243-page Ted Wells #DeflateGate report emerged on a Wednesday afternoon in May, but the Wells report doesn’t really amount to “bad news,” per se. Everyone already knew about the controversy; this was the NFL’s chance to expose its findings that cheating occurred, and the midweek release gave talking heads a chance to digest the most obvious stuff pointing to cheating. Closer analysis that exposed the many flaws in the report came later, with many (like me) first figuring out that something was fishy during the ensuing weekend.
Tom Brady’s four-game suspension came the following Monday. On one hand, time was of the essence, especially turning the focus to the suspension tapped the brakes on the process of picking apart the Wells report. (The picking apart would nevertheless continue.) On the other hand, the announcement came at the close of business on Monday, not first thing in the morning. If the league had picked the latter, the Brady suspension would have dominated the entire day.
The most glaring example of a bad news dump in recent months came on Thursday, July 2, the last workday before the Fourth of July holiday. While Volin mentions only the Antonio Gates four-game PED suspension, the NFL dropped a quartet of suspensions into a two-hour window, with Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain, Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, and Packers linebacker Datone Jones also being suspended, each for violations of the substance-abuse policy. That clearly wasn’t a coincidence.
Most recently, the NFL announced the final ruling in the Greg Hardy suspension on Friday, July 11 at 2:20 p.m., not so late that it was an obvious bad-news dump but clearly on the day when it makes sense to dump bad news.
Of course it makes sense to dump bad news on a Friday afternoon. That’s why the NFL’s objection to the perception is so odd. Everyone with any real P.R. savvy puts bad news on a Friday afternoon and good news on a Monday morning.
Maybe the real story is that the NFL has had so much bad news in recent years that people now notice when bad news comes on a Friday afternoon.
The good news is that none of the bad news has short-circuited the cash register.