Joe Lockhart: The Man Behind the NFL’s Protest Era Messaging

League spokesman was White House press secretary during President Clinton's scandal involving Monica Lewinsky.

National Football League spokesman Joe Lockhart has been busy of late. What with the whole “to stand or not to stand” quandary dogging the league. By and large, Lockhart’s messaging has been right on track. You might suspect that he’s had a bit of practice.

If his name rings a bell, it’s because you likely heard it again and again on the national news in the late 1990s. That’s because Lockhart was master of spin as the White House spokesman during President Bill Clinton’s extramarital scandal involving intern Monica Lewinsky.

But he wasn’t just some Clinton patsy; he had authority over the messaging and wasn’t afraid to say what needed to be said to the press. He’s taken on that role now with the NFL, argues The New York Times, as he wades through one of the toughest era’s in league history—one marred by the anthem debate, CTE, and a barrage of players in legal trouble.

His tenure as league spokesman hasn’t always been peachy keen, notes the Times. After the president’s now infamous criticism of the league and the anthem protests, Lockhart told the media that a national conversation on police brutality was “what real locker room talk is”—which some owners, including the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, took as a direct jab at Trump.

In a sense, Lockhart makes for the perfect medium between professional football and politics, two things that have become everlastingly entangled in the year-plus since Colin Kaepernick first knelt during the national anthem in August 2016.

But Lockhart doesn’t see it that way, as told the Times: “My work is about making sure that people understand what it is we’re doing, why that is and what impact it is having. …That’s devoid of a political agenda. It doesn’t mean I don’t have political views. But my overriding view when I come to work is, What’s good for the NFL?”

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