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The NFL thinks Roger Goodell's position is more dignified than the presidency

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Peak Goodell.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Note: While Roger Goodell and the NFL entered into discussions with Funny or Die producers to explore the options of doing some type of video with the site, the two sides had never agreed on 'Between Two Ferns' as the concept. Per Funny or Die's PR agency, Richanbach was using 'Between Two Ferns' as an example of how President Obama handled things differently from Roger Goodell. The article has been updated to reflect that.

Alex Richanbach, executive producer of Funny or Die Sports was on a SXSW panel last Saturday called "Now Athletes are Funny: Power of Comedy and Sports." I hadn't noticed it on the schedule until it was about halfway over, but I stopped in just as Richanbach was getting into the meat of a pretty great Roger Goodell story.

After President Obama's appearance on the Funny or Die mainstay Between Two Ferns in March 2014, the NFL and FOD producers began a discussion about having NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell do some kind of a video for the site. The league was obviously interested in a bit of goodwill coming their way for a change, and Funny or Die would have relished the opportunity/challenge that would go along with presenting Goodell in a comical light.

This struck me as a pretty great idea, especially if they had decided to use the Between Two Ferns concept. The formula relies on the guest to act like a robotic, platitude-spitting punching bag, and I would defy you to find anyone in the world who's more qualified than Goodell on that front.

As Richanbach told it -- I'm paraphrasing here -- the NFL had some talking points that they wanted to cover during the taping, and they sent those over to FOD. This isn't uncommon. Most people who would appear in a Funny Or Die video do so to promote a new TV show or movie, or in the case of Obama, a national health care marketplace. The NFL sent their notes over to FOD producers who responded by saying they'd be happy to address the talking points, but they wanted to make it clear that the comedy website would be making some jokes at the commissioner's expense, obviously.

So, the league responded by telling Funny or Die that they would not allow Roger Goodell to subject himself to ridicule from a comedian of all people. As someone who covers the NFL, I can tell you they regard professional football as a very serious business made of men with iron wills and stone faces and that starts from the top down. I wasn't completely surprised to hear that the NFL didn't understand how jokes work, but the next part was over-the-top, even by NFL standards.

In an attempt to salvage the relationship, Funny Or Die countered by reminding them that even the leader of the free world was willing to take a joke, saying "but Obama did it, and he's President of the United States."

Richanbach said that the league shot back, "well, he's not the commissioner of the NFL."

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