Ever since Roger Goodell replaced Pat Tagliabue as commissioner of the National Football League in 2006, Goodell’s leadership has been controversial and outrageous.
In 2007, Goodell made his existence known with his first of many policies, the NFL Personal Conduct Policy. This is a perfect example of a good policy, as NFL players are employees that represent both the NFL and the sport of football and should be subject to policies that regulate how they carry themselves off of the field.
But Goodell strayed from the path of smart leadership almost immediately when he fined Dallas Cowboys quarterback coach Wade Wilson $100,000 and suspended him for five games, because Wilson used banned substances to treat his diabetes. Goodell’s argument was that Wilson’s penalty was more severe, because Goodell holds “people in authority in higher regard than people on the field.”
This was completely unnecessary. How many times do you see children with posters of quarterback coaches on their walls and not of actual NFL players?
While Wilson did violate a policy and did deserve punishment, it seems like a player who promoted, funded and facilitated dog fighting should be punished more severely than a quarterback coach. In 2009, then Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Michael Vick was guilty of this, and only received a measly two game suspension. This is completely questionable. Are the actions of Vick somehow not as bad as the innocent mistake of a quarterback coach? Goodell must be in denial to actually think that he is being consistent and using precedent correctly.
Another major scandal occurred in 2007 when New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick was caught attempting to videotape the New York Jets practice. While Goodell did the right thing in fining Belichick the league maximum of $500,000, he (irrationally) fined the team $250,000, as well as taking away the team’s first round draft pick in 2008—a complete power move.
Just because a coach violates the sanctity of the game on one occasion does not mean the entire organization should be reprimanded so drastically as to have its first round draft pick, something vital to an organization’s growth, taken away.
One of Goodell’s most infamous rulings came in 2012 when it was announced that New Orleans head coach Sean Payton installed a “bounty system” within his team that offered money to players for injuring opposing star players. While this is rare, Goodell made the right decision in suspending Sean Payton for an entire season. Payton organized this disgusting act, which violated the ethics of the league, and received a harsh but just punishment.
All of these major rulings bring us to 2013 where Goodell’s series of blunders ascended into one of the worst policy changes in the history of any professional sporting league ever. With new discoveries of concussions suffered by ex-NFL players, Goodell decided he had the power to greatly alter the way the game is played and has been played for decades. Goodell started outrageously fining defensive players for the smallest things, such as slightly grazing an opponent’s helmet while making a tackle, resulting in a 15 yard penalty instead of suspension or fine, if the defensive player was lucky.
Goodell was not only using this policy to protect players but also to make the game more exciting—something that he has no right to decide. By limiting the defensive players’ abilities, Goodell created a higher scoring, more “exciting” game that would draw more fans and make him more money. The defensive players are just playing the style of football they were taught to play while growing up, and Goodell is trying to change this.
Why should a commissioner suddenly become the sole decider of who decides what is enjoyable to watch or not? Why should Goodell be able to change the way the game is played? Goodell’s fines and suspensions do not make sense and do not correlate punishments with severity or repeat offenses.
Perhaps the worst thing Goodell has done as commissioner took place this year and will hopefully result in his firing or his resignation. In February 2014, a TMZ video surfaced of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice dragging his unconscious then-fiancee, now-wife Janay Palmer, out of an Atlantic City casino elevator.
In June, Goodell met with both Palmer and Rice to discuss the situation and to decide a suitable punishment. In July, Goodell’s decision was announced, saying that Rice was suspended for only two games, much less than what a player would face for marijuana use. For reference, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for an entire season this year for failing a marijuana drug test.
Countless people, from reporters to women’s rights activists to myself, were disgusted with this verdict. How can a man who brutally knocked out his wife on video be given such a light slap on the wrist?
On Sept. 8, TMZ leaked the video recording from inside the elevator, depicting Rice savagely swinging his fist into his wife’s face, something more horrific and appalling than was previously thought of the situation.
After this, the Ravens decided to terminate Rice’s contract and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. Roger Goodell seemed to be a hero, because it looked as if he was in the dark earlier, but now that he had seen the tapes, he of course made the right decision, making him exempt to his previously relentless criticism. However, there is one problem with this.
It turns out that voicemails and Rice’s public admission reveal that Goodell allegedly had seen the most recent video from inside the elevator in April and was only now making it seem like he had just seen the video to save his own image.
This is a horrific cover-up that should have already resulted in Goodell’s firing. Goodell does not prioritize correcting current off-the-field presence of his players and condones domestic violence. Goodell simply wants to look good and that is why he thinks it is okay to blatantly fabricate the truth to the public to make it seem like he did the right thing.
Right now, ex-FBI director Robert Mueller, along with New York Giants owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers owner, is conducting an independent investigation to see how grossly mishandled the Ray Rice situation was. Hopefully, Roger Goodell will no longer be the commissioner of the NFL, either by resignation or by firing, very soon.
The next issue is who would replace Goodell as commissioner of the NFL. The obvious answer is Condoleezza Rice, former United States Secretary of State. Rice is a stable, strong woman who did not give into peer pressure in Washington and will do the same as the commissioner of the NFL. Rice has always been a huge fan of the NFL, and has always wanted to be the commissioner of the NFL. Rice has the experience, as she has been a very successful conservative leader and manager. Rice would be a voice of reason as commissioner.
While Condoleezza Rice would be the best candidate for the commissioner of the NFL, that can wait. The top priority right now is to get Roger Goodell out of office.