The Royal Heffernans

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Roger Goodell Is Now the Scapegoat

I am going to take a very unpopular position here. I am going to defend the NFL and Roger Goodell in their mishandling of the Ray Rice domestic violence suspension.

The NFL is a microcosm of America. There are overwhelmingly good people in the league. There are also bad people. Cheaters, drug users, alcoholics, murderers, rapists and (as brought vividly to the public conscience with an elevator security cam) wife/woman beaters. In this respect, the NFL is no different from any other field of employment in America, be it teachers, politicians, doctors or whatever. The big difference is that the NFL is almost completely in the public eye. (That and the multibillion dollar revenue, which we'll get back to.)

So is it any wonder that the Ravens and the NFL woefully mishandled the Ray Rice situation? The legal system struggles mightily with sexual assault and domestic violence issues. Just look at the Ray Rice case. His fiancee (whom he has since married) did not press charges and strongly supported him. I'm not saying that makes it OK. I realize that part of the problem is that many women feel that they deserve this or are willing to ignore it for love, money, stability or whatever. That puts a prosecution in a tough spot. Ray Rice avoided jail time and got pre-trial intervention, with the charges likely to be expunged.

So what is the NFL to do? The prosecutors gave him a slap on the wrist. His wife sat by his side and pled for lenience. Rice fully admitted to what he did and said he is in counseling to get help. Goodell gave him 2 weeks suspension. He could have given him more, but what is the precedent? It's more than the legal system did.

Obviously, that wasn't enough, and the subsequent release of the in-elevator view has sparked a firestorm of what did who know when. It doesn't matter. This is a position that the NFL, or any other workplace cannot win in.

I think Goodell's biggest mistake is taking on the role of sheriff  when he became commissioner. There is no way to clean up the NFL, just liek there is no way to clean up America or any society. There are going to be bad eggs. It's an impossible standard for Goodell to be judge, jury and executioner for everyone in the NFL. Just look at our legal system to see how complicated it has become to simply dole out justice in America. The NFL is a SPORT!!! It's not a courtroom.

My solution to this mess if I am advising the NFL? I think Roger Goodell should step back from his role as moral policeman of the NFL. As commissioner, he should review and dole out punishment regarding on-field issues only. PEDs, drug use, blows to the head, spygate, bounties. Anything off the field would be a legal matter. Then, each individual team would be free to decide if a player needs any additional punishment - just like any other employer. In this case, Ray Rice would have been fired from almost any job if this had come to light. If the Ravens decided to keep him to make the team better, they would be BLASTED by fans and media, and would feel an impact financially. No different than if a teacher put his wife in the hospital. He'd be fired.

In no way is this a defense of Ray Rice or what he did. Make that point clear. I am just trying to say that Roger Goodell and the NFL have painted themselves into a corner. It's an impossible task for them to maintain, but they have tried to do this because of the money. They want to protect and grow the game, but you can never prevent the bad apples from doing bad things. I think America is well beyond the naive mindset that puts football players on a pedestal. Most reasonable people realize football players have the same problems as the rest of society.

Let's let society deal with the players when they do wrong. Let the NFL stick to football.


ian said...

I get what you're saying, but it seems that the NFL has a disproportionately higher crime rate that society at large. I think the other thing that really bothers me is the NFL's attempts not simply to cover things up, but to outright lie to the public and its consumers to save face. This is what they've done with Rice. This is what they've done with concussions. And that, to me, is the most heinous aspect.

Teddy said...

By the way, I could give 2 shits about NOW (national org for women) calling for Goodell's resignation. That's 100% political. I hate the bottom feeder organizations that feed off controversy to advance their own profile (and raise money).

I haven't ever heard NOW speak up about ANY boss who punished an employee, but not strong enough.

Do they not realize the end result was the same? Rice is out.

ian said...

I do agree with you on one thing - Goodell is being made the scapegoat. We, as fans, were all pretty good with everything until this video went viral. He should resign, because even with all the money he's pulling in for the league he's given them a serious image problem, and that's also part of the gig. But really, we should have been calling for action 5 months ago and widespread action, not just directed at Goodell.

Teddy said...

By the way, how long is AP banned if there was video of him hitting his son in the sack with a switch?

Kevin said...

The crazy thing about all of this is that the information about Ray Rice hitting his wife, and a video of him dragging her lifeless body down a hotel hallway, were available months ago. He admitted to police and media he struck her and knocked her unconscious. But when it was just words on paper, it really didn't get any press. Even the video of him dragging her down the hallway didn't inspire too much animosity from the general public. But you finally get the video uncovered of him actually striking her, and all hell breaks loose. Why is that? Why is it that we have to have video evidence of anything in order to take real action? Why is it that the facts never changed, but the punishment and the public outcry increased 100-fold?

I submit that no one gives two shits anymore unless they see the action. We are all our own modern version of Thomas, doubting until we see with our own eyes, not just the proof, but the actual event. There is so much video of everything and anything that we've all been desensitized to statements, admissions, reports, and any other form of non-visual data. If there is video of AP striking his child(ren), his career is also over. If there isn't, he will probably be in the backfield for the Vikings before the end of the year.

In the end, I'll be very interested to see if Ray Rice's second punishment (indefinite suspension) for the same crime gets overturned on the NFLPA appeal. Nothing like a little double-jeopardy to get him off the hook. I still don't see any team signing him. Well, maybe Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. But only if DeMarco Murray goes down.

As a final note, the NFL has a lower crime rate than society at large. Read TMQ from this week - Easterbrook covers that point very nicely. The crime rate for the NFL is roughly half that of adults in America in general. It just seems that it's higher because, at least right now, the guys getting in trouble are big names. There's been domestic violence charges for players in the past (Chad Johnson) but not with star players in their prime. If the two guys that got in trouble for domestic violence were special teams guys or backup linemen, this would never get anywhere near the publicity.