The NFL Network's choice of Bryant Gumbel as lead play-by-play announcer for its games that begin in November is already giving the network a PR boost after outgoing NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue today responded to comments Gumbel made on his HBO show, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
After Gumbel suggested that Tagliabue show incoming commission Roger Goodell "where he keeps [NFL players union chief] Gene Upshaw’s leash," according to the Associated Press, Tagliabue on Monday fired back, "What Gumbel said about Gene Upshaw and our owners is about as irresponsible as anything I’ve heard in a long time."
While the AP says that Goodell and NFL Network President and CEO Steve Bornstein will meet to discuss the remarks, the back and forth positions Gumbel as the outspoken voice the NFL Network claimed it had hired and is not expected to affect his role.
The network had hoped bringing in the outspoken Gumbel and partner Cris Collinsworth would establish that the upcoming game broadcasts will not be extensions of the league’s PR department. The duo will handle the broadcasts of the eight NFL games the network will air on Thursday and Saturday nights beginning on Thanksgiving night.
On his HBO show that first aired August 15, Gumbel said: "Before he cleans out his office, have Paul Tagliabue show you where he keeps Gene Upshaw's leash. By making the docile head of the players union his personal pet, your predecessor has kept the peace without giving players the kind of guarantees other pros take for granted. Try to make sure no one competent ever replaces Upshaw on your watch."
An NFL spokesperson declined to comment on the Gumbel situation.