The Goodell Problem

Roger Goodell has been the cause of many major problems in the NFL since he became the commissioner in 2006. That’s ten years of tension, and ten years of a power hungry man who doesn’t know how to react under pressure. It has been ten years of allowing someone who shouldn’t be in a powerful position to have responsibility over one NFL team, much less the entire league. Simply put: Goodell is a bad parent. He’s not a bad commissioner because he doesn’t act like a commissioner. He certainly doesn’t deserve that description. He is a parent because he acts as though his players are children, and he treats them as such. “Boys will be boys” is not a statement that should be used when describing boys, let alone grown men. And yet, this is how Roger Goodell treats his ill-deserved charge. He serves as a head of household who cares more about family finances and how he is perceived than what his players and teams are actually doing.

There is a reason why Goodell gets booed at every time he walks on stage to announce team’s picks during the NFL draft every year: no one likes him. And no one agrees with how he’s handling things. If you put a Packers fan and a Bears fan in a room together, the one and only thing they would agree on is how Roger Goodell is ruining the fun that is supposed to be American football (and maybe they would also agree on the fact that Josh Sitton is a fantastic player). Here’s the thing though: Goodell has said time and time again that his main priority is to protect the integrity of the game while continuing to make it safer. So essentially, Goodell is a hypocrite. And everyone knows it.

The NFL didn’t recognize that there exists a connection between playing football and CTE* until March of this year. It was as though they were scared to say that they knew men were not built to play football. Anyone with half a brain could tell you that football is dangerous. Players recognize that it’s a dangerous game. They understand that it can cause problems later in life, yet they still play the game. Calvin Johnson recently retired from football at age thirty due to CTE concerns, but he also played in the NFL for almost ten years. He understood the risks, but he played for a long span of time. Acknowledging that CTE is a real thing won’t stop people from watching or playing football. For Goodell to say that safety is one of his most major concerns, yet not recognize that CTE is a problem during the first ten years of his time as commissioner is absolutely astounding.

Cam Newton was hit extremely hard during the first regular season opener at Broncos stadium this year and not one person took him off the field to check on him. It was an obvious injury, however. Anyone who was watching could tell that he was hit hard in the head and that he was not okay whatsoever. When the Jets played the Bills, Tyrod Taylor was taken off the field for a concussion check, even though he looked better than Cam Newton did during that Broncos game. There are major inconsistencies with CTE checks. For those who do not know, a player is supposed to be taken off the field if he has symptomatic concussive signs. Players have been taken off the field for one play for a concussion check by a third party doctor, but then they go right back in for the next play. Due to this regular occurrence, the system has been doubted many times before. Even though technology has come so far, the system remains flawed. The NFL, as led by Roger Goodell, has tried for so long to brush concussions under the rug when the concussion protocol is not where it should be yet. In 2013, the NFL settled with former players saying they will pay them for the damage that was caused to their brains while playing football. Because money solves everything, right?

Speaking of money, there’s a broken system when it comes to fining and punishing players. Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers did a dance after scoring a touchdown last week where all he did was shake his butt. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t even twerking. Not only did Brown’s actions result in a 15-yard penalty on the next play, but he was also fined tens of thousands of dollars for it. The New York Giants kicker Josh Brown has assaulted and abused his wife on multiple occasions, resulting in a great amount of 911 phone calls. And when I say multiple occasions, I mean at least twenty different times. What did the NFL do? They gave him a one-game suspension. The harsh reality that players receive for silly celebrations or accidental big hits can be excessively severe. On the flip side, players are not being harshly punished for rape, assault, or in some actual cases, murder. There’s a lack of balance when it comes to punishments.

Roger Goodell has been the leader in all of this. The NFL is not a democracy. He has the final say in everything. This is extremely unfortunate because Goodell changes his mind constantly. Greg Hardy played for the Panthers and then was picked up by the Cowboys after a stream of domestic violence issues. The Panthers didn’t want him anymore, but he’s actually a good defensive end, so Dallas took him instead. The NFL gave Hardy a ten-game suspension after they found out that he almost strangled a person to death during a domestic violence dispute. This suspension was given to him during the off-season. Later on during that same off-season time, his suspension was reduced to four games in reward for his “good behavior.” The man hadn’t even been back on the field yet, and they decided to give him a lesser suspension. What’s the point of having a personal conduct policy if players are given passes all the time? What’s the point of behaving if daddy is going to lessen your grounding time after a day or two if you keep your mouth shut?

This isn’t jail. It’s a job. You don’t get to violate rules that the NFL has in place and then get a punishment time reduced because you stopped hitting women for a couple of months. This isn’t the only time that Goodell has changed his mind. As I have said before, Goodell is the weak parent you go to when you’ve messed up but don’t want to take the punishment for it. Goodell punishes like a bad parent. His good, successful children get ridiculous punishments for minor offenses while his bad, uncooperative children get rewarded for not seeming as bad as they once were.

Take Tom Brady for instance. Love him or hate him, Brady’s worst offenses have been his horrible haircuts and wearing a “Make America Great Again” Trump hat. That was until the Deflate-Gate scandal happened. How I view the whole scenario is that Brady most likely mentioned he liked his footballs to be a little bit deflated, so a lower level person for New England decided to do it for him. Yes, those actions still constitute cheating, and the integrity of the game was at stake. But for some reason, this was the one issue that Goodell did not want to let go of. He suspended Brady for four games, resulting in an eighteen-month-long, back-and-forth argument that landed in the Federal Appeals court. It literally almost went to the Supreme Court; that’s how big of a deal it was made into.

The problem is that there are no set rules when it comes to punishing the players. Any big offence receives a punishment that Goodell himself decides on. If one player does one thing and a second player does the exact same thing, their consequences can be completely different depending on what mood Goodell is in. Putting that power into the hands of a man who I see as someone who spends twenty minutes picking out toothpaste at the grocery store, only to just grab one and leave out of indecisive frustration…just isn’t the best idea in the world.

More recent problems have occurred beside the obvious ones. Freedom of speech is not something that is encouraged by Goodell. Aaron Rodgers has insinuated before that players are not allowed to speak out regarding anything important. Even though NFL players have the power to promote change and are respected by so many people, they are told to keep their mouths shut and just focus on not trying to get brain damage so the NFL doesn’t have to pay for it. Rodgers has said that the next time the player’s union goes into negotiations on the relationship with the NFL, he wants to be part of it, specifically so he can ensure players have their voices heard.

Goodell, a strong Republican supporter and married to a former Fox News anchor, has been known to put business over people. As the protests over the national anthem continue, Goodell continues to speak on how he disagrees with it. He doesn’t really seem to be affected by the issues his players and coaches continue to have in their personal lives, even though most of the issues violate NFL guidelines. He recently instilled the “Rooney Rule” which will allow women to interview for executive jobs at NFL headquarters. This is something that sounds great… until you realize that he most likely hasn’t had any women be interviewed seriously before this time. There is also the fact that Goodell cares more about Washington keeping their racist team name than the oppression of almost seventy percent of NFL players. (Yes, Colin Kaepernick is being oppressed even if his parents are white, and even if he makes a great amount of money. Get over it.)

The most daunting part of all is that many have called for Goodell’s resignation, yet it seems like Goodell is staying for the long haul. He acts as though he is only hated because he has power, but that mentality is extremely flawed. Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA, has done great things, and he obviously holds power as well. Silver allows his players to stand up for what is right, takes care of their safety in addition to the safety of the fans, and actually cares about the integrity of the game. He is a feminist and a supporter of the Lean In initiative. He hates that Kevin Durant went to the Golden State Warriors because he wants things to be competitive. He cares about the NBA more than his position in the NBA. All in all, Silver has done a better job than Goodell has. And yes, one could argue that there is more to deal with in the NFL. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find a Silver type of person to run the NFL. Hence: just find someone stable to run the NFL instead of Goodell.

And just for the record, Adam Silver has been commissioner for just as long as Goodell has been commissioner. It has nothing to do with the amount of time being in that position. To put it simply: Goodell sucks at his job. Adam Silver is great at his job. Find an Adam Silver type person to run the NFL.

Roger Goodell has proven time and time again that he is inadequate and unable to perform his job correctly. He makes things more complicated than they need to be. He doesn’t punish in an understandable way. He is biased and egotistical. If everyone is calling for a new commissioner, then there’s probably a reason for it. And that reason is because Roger Goodell doesn’t know how to parent, let alone lead the NFL. Goodell is causing more problems for the NFL than he is helping it. A liability is not the best fit for someone of power, whether it’s the leader of a country, the principal of a school, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company… or even the commissioner of the NFL.

So keep your fingers crossed for an ousted Goodell sometime soon.

*Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain commonly found in athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma. Recent reports confirm CTE in retired professional football players who have suffered symptomatic concussions in addition to asymptomatic sub-concussive hits to the head.

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