For the second time in as many weeks, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith are appearing together in public. The symbolism is unmistakable and obvious.
Last week, Goodell and Smith spoke side by side to reporters who covered a negotiating session in Massachusetts. Wednesday morning, they appeared together at an NFLPA-sponsored rookie symposium. Goodell reportedly addressed the players, and the NFLPA posted photographs of the event on Twitter.
Reports have suggested for weeks that the sides were making progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement, one that would end the lockout and put the sport back in business in time for the opening of training camp next month. Wednesday's joint appearance suggests that the sides at least see a deal on the horizon.
The NFL and NFLPA are masterful manipulators of message. They fully understand the conclusions likely to be drawn from Goodell and Smith sitting next to each other on a stage in front of players. If I had to guess, I would think part of their message is intended for corporate sponsors and/or ticket buyers who have been skittish about their buys during the lockout. With a photograph, the NFL is saying: We're on our way back.
According to the NFLPA, Smith told players: "The goal is to get this done fast but right so that everything can start on time." Smith and Goodell are scheduled to answer questions from players later Wednesday, then issue a joint statement to reporters.