This was an awful week for the NFL, and none of it had to do with football games. We had a video of Ray Rice knocking his girlfriend out with a punch to the face; we had a commissioner who seems to have been involved in covering it up; and now Adrian Peterson being charged with “reckless or negligent injury to a child.”
The Ray Rice situation was awful. Rice knocked out the woman he wants to spend his life with, but it doesn’t end there. After hitting her, he didn’t come to his senses, thinking, “What did I do?” and take care of her. Instead, he grabbed her by the leg and tried dragging her from the elevator. It showed no concern and no remorse.
The Adrian Peterson situation seemed somewhat innocent at first. A father disciplined his child with a “switch”. I know many of my generation had been on the wrong end of that discipline. This seemed like he was the victim of some sentiment against spanking.
But now there are reports of the boy having cuts and bruises all over his body. His hands, allegedly, had defensive cuts on them. If that’s the case, that’s taking the whole thing too far, in my opinion. Either way, it’s another black eye for the league.
Sitting in the middle of all of this is you, Mr. Goodell, also under fire. It’s your league, sir. You’ve certainly demonstrated that since you took over. You and your league are looking awful right now. Nobody believes in your intentions on anything. You drop harsh penalties on players without blinking an eye, and you take action to correct problems, but everything seems to be a reaction to public sentiment, not something done from your own conviction.
You want to play the tough sheriff, but then you handled this Ray Rice situation as poorly as you could have. You said you were wrong with the two-game penalty, but based on whose beliefs? Your’s or the public’s? You did eventually hit the guy with an indefinite ban, but only after the public demanded it. You may or may not have tried covering it up, and you gave him a slap on the wrist. Sure, you came out with a tough Domestic Violence penalty, but, again, only after there was public outrage. Which guy are you? The one who slaps a player on the wrist for abuse, or the guy who just gave out an indefinite ban for it?
The same can be said about the concussion issue you inherited. Or the punishment on Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay. When there was enough public scrutiny, then you did something about it. What would you have done if the public had been indifferent? When you do come down on something, it’s tough, but it’s always after the fact and always seems contrived just to please the public.
Here in Cleveland, everyone had to wait a long time for you to make a decision about Josh Gordon’s punishment. Why such a long delay? Were you waiting for the public to calm down about Rice only getting two games? Were you taking the temperature of the room before you made your decision? And now, during the season, you want to rewrite the drug policy and put it into effect retroactively? Why, because now people think the drug policy is too strict?
Sir, these things make you a follower, not a leader. Leaders make choices before there’s an incident, not after. It should be obvious after this week that the NFL, more than ever, needs a leader.
Someone needs to step up and have his own moral compass, who doesn’t make decisions based on the prevailing wind. Be known for something besides the guy who hands out harsh punishments. Please put as much care into what the league stands for as you do trying to make it a more marketable commodity. The problems keep piling up because you are trying to lead from behind.
To be honest, it feels to some that you only view the NFL as a product to be sold, and the fans as a customer base to be sold to. The sport and the legacy of the sport seem unimportant to you. You’ve turned the game into a track meet messing with the rules trying to quiet the crowds who say you don’t care about player safety.
Eventually, Mr. Goodell, the wind of 24-hour news will sweep this week away. Soon, we’ll move on. Let’s hope the rest of the season goes smooth. But I can tell you that it won’t last, not until you get hold of the reigns.
There’s more to being commissioner than taking money out of the pockets of players and fans. You wanted this job. You got it.
Now do it.