After last season, the NFL’s top publicist Joe Lockhart, stepped down following a tumultuous two-year run.
The NFL received some terrible PR during Lockhart’s run, in large part due to the anthem protest movement. Some owners like Jerry Jones (Cowboys) and Daniel Snyder (Redskins) believe Lockhart, a former Bill Clinton aide, made things worse by going after President Donald J. Trump, a harsh critic of anthem kneeling.
The NFL took their time looking for his replacement, a decision of great import, and on Tuesday named Jocelyn Moore as Lockhart’s successor.
This is a historical hire for the NFL. Not only is Moore their first female PR chief, but also the first African-American to fill this prominent role.
“Jocelyn has a proven track record of developing effective communication strategies in a variety of dynamic and challenging environments,” said NFL COO Maryanne Turcke. “Jocelyn brings a perspective and passion for communicating to our fans and other stakeholders that will strengthen our voice and put the focus on our game.”
Moore is an in-house promotion, having joined the league in July of 2016 as the NFL’s Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs.
Prior to joining the league, she spent 15 years in the United States Senate, most recently on Senator Ron Wyden’s senior leadership team. Prior to that she worked for Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Senator Zell Miller, and Senator Bob Graham.
Since Moore worked the last two years under Lockhart, some might wonder if she’s the best candidate to reverse the bad PR the league has received under her former boss.
But she clearly knows several owners didn’t like Lockhart’s approach, so Moore is likely going to take a different tact, like avoiding confrontations with Trump.
On September 25, 2017, Lockhart took a shot at Trump for calling NFL anthem-kneelers “SOB’s” in an Alabama campaign speech.
“Everyone should know, including the president, that this is what real locker room talk is,” said Lockhart, referring to Trump’s excuse for vulgar comments about women to Billy Bush on a 2005 tape leaked to “Access Hollywood.”
According to ESPN, several owners, including Jones, were livid at Lockhart for “politicizing” the league’s response to this matter.
So it should come as no surprise that Jones, according to the Wall Street Journal, said “I was proud to see [Lockhart] go.”
Jones knows that protesting during the Star-Spangled Banner is bad business in Texas, a football-crazed red state.
A new University of Texas-Austin poll found 47 percent of respondents unhappy with the league.
Moore loves football, with roots in two of the nation’s top football states. She hails from Georgia and attended the University of Florida. So perhaps has more of a connection to football fans than Lockhart, from New York City, not exactly a football hotbed.
And following the vocal Lockhart, who had weekly conference calls with reporters (a rarity for an NFL PR guy), a “less is Moore” approach might work better for the NFL.
Every time the popular Pro Football Talk website — which writes a ton about the anthem — wants a statement from the league, you don’t need to respond. The NFL’s position on the anthem is clear, recently ruling that all players on the field must stand or their teams will be fined.
But whatever approach she takes, there is no question Moore has a huge challenge in front of her.