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Jets Owner Blasts ‘False’ Reporting From League-Owned Outlet

  • Woody Johnson called an NFL Media report about him ’irresponsible‘ and ‘absolutely false.’
  • League owners and NFL Media rarely criticize each other.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Jets owner Woody Johnson criticized an NFL Media reporter Thursday for comments made about him on a recent podcast.

“It is yet another irresponsible report from NFL Network,” Johnson posted. “Please disregard.”

NFL Network is a subsidiary of NFL Media, which is collectively owned by the league’s owners. It’s an unusual scuffle because league-owned media outlets tend to avoid critical or negative coverage.

The dispute stems from an episode of the Around the NFL podcast that was published Tuesday. Host Colleen Wolfe cited a “very reliable source” to say Johnson and Jets coach Robert Saleh had a “very heated conversation” during the league’s annual owners meeting in Orlando. Wolfe originally said the discussion happened at a party “last night,” referring to Monday, then later said it happened Sunday night and was not at a party.

The Jets are sticking with Saleh after going 18–33 in his three seasons as head coach. Johnson, who has owned the team since 2000, is a billionaire heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune. He took a brief leave as primary Jets owner, handing the reins to his brother Christopher, to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom in the Trump Administration.

Johnson called the news “absolutely false” in his post. Jets beat reporter Connor Hughes said he was present at the alleged party, “feet from Saleh & Johnson,” and the supposed incident never happened. (There is some dispute over which day the incident may have happened.)

These kinds of stories aren’t often reported by league-owned media, nor is league-owned media often publicly reprimanded by team owners. The closest analogue might be the ousting of Ken Rosenthal from MLB Network, which reportedly dated back to his 2020 comments criticizing commissioner Rob Manfred. Rosenthal had written several columns about the league and specifically Manfred’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the baseball season in The Athletic. Rosenthal was off the air for about three months, then returned until his contract expired and wasn’t renewed in ’21.

Late Wednesday, Wolfe tweeted about the situation, suggesting that she’d received bad information: “No, I was not at the Annual Meeting and yes, I was told of the exchange between coach Robert Saleh & Woody Johnson by someone in attendance. Others on-site Sunday night have since reached out and described the interaction differently. … My sincerest apologies to the Jets organization… .”

Editors’ note, March 28 at 6:16 p.m. ET: The story has been updated to include Wolfe’s comment.

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