The Commissioner of a major sport in the US is a powerful person indeed. Professional football has become the 800-pound gorilla in the sports world and has expanded its already expansive reach in the U.S. to global proportions. Which makes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell one of the most powerful men in professional sports today.
But as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. And Goodell has been anything but responsible with the power he's been given by virtue of the office he sits on. So busy with making the already wealthy owners insanely wealthy, and attempting to install gimmicky rule changes like moving the extra point, or adopting a ban on the use of the “N” word, Goodell has neglected his duties as the Commissioner, and has repeatedly broken his promises to clean up the game of football. If you're a prime time performer and help make money for the league, the chances are good that Goodell is going to find a way to be lenient with you should you ever find yourself in trouble.
From cheaters, to drug abusers, to domestic abusers, to deadbeat dads, to guys who kill their teammates, Goodell's position is one that has varied from case to case. Some players get leniency, while others don't. His inconsistent approach to discipline in the league gives the impression that he's just winging it and that any punishment a player may face, will depend upon his mood as well as the revenue you help generate for your team and the league.
Ever since Goodell assumed the office of the NFL Commissioner in 2006, the league has endured a complete void in leadership. As the head of one of the world's biggest professional sports leagues, Goodell's word carries a lot of weight, and he's had the opportunity to make a really positive impact, not just in the sport, but in the world as well. And he's completely fumbled that opportunity away time and time and time again.
While most of the focus lately has been on the Ray Rice situation – and rightly so – that is just the latest issue that has highlighted Goodell's appalling lack of leadership, lack of integrity, and lack of credibility. Goodell shouldn't be fired simply for the way the Rice situation has been handled – it's not just one thing. It's a long list of things, that taken as a whole, show Goodell's incompetence and lack of caring about doing the right things.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should be fired immediately, and here are a few reasons why...
Patriots' owner Bob Kraft is a good friend and longtime ally of Goodell's. He's also one of the more powerful and influential team owners in the league. It is in Goodell's best interest to stay on his good side. Which he did with his handling of the 2007 Patriot's cheating scandal, better known as Spygate. New England got caught videotaping opponents and stealing their signals – which creates quite the competitive imbalance. Goodell investigated the matter, reviewed all of the evidence – some supplied by a disgruntled employee – and then inexplicably destroyed it all. Though Pats coach Bill Belichick was fined $500k, the Patriots $250k, and they were stripped of one draft pick, no suspensions or other punishments were handed down. The ham-handed investigation by the Commissioner, and penalties many believed were insufficient, left a bad taste in the mouths of many as it smacked of favoritism and a cover up for one of Goodell's buddies.
9 Continued Support of the Name for Washington's Football Team
The issue surrounding Washington's team nickname has been gathering momentum for quite a long time and has now reached a fevered pitch. With current US politicians, Native American advocacy groups, former and current NFL players, as well as football fans (and non-fans) across the country calling for Washington team owner Dan Snyder to change the team name – which is defined in the dictionary as a racial slur – Goodell has only expressed support for the moniker. The NBA yanked Donald Sterling's team away from him because of racist sentiments expressed in what he thought was a private setting – and yet Goodell has come out in support of the continued use of a racist slur for one of his league's teams. Making Goodell look like an even more tone deaf on this issue was his ridiculous idea to start penalizing and fining players who used the “N” word on the field because he said, it was racially offensive to a group of people. Can we say “hypocrisy” boys and girls? I knew you could.
8 Jim Irsay's “Punishment”
Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, was arrested in March for driving under the influence. After he'd been stopped, the police found multiple bottles of prescription medication as well as a large pile of cash. It presented a unique problem for Goodell in that he was going to have to punish a league owner – one of his 32 bosses. Despite not hesitating to pull the trigger on suspending players who've found themselves in similar situations, Goodell wanted to “let the legal process play out,” and “gather all of the relevant facts of the case,” before making a decision on Irsay's punishment – which turned out to be a 6 game suspension and a $500,000 dollar fine. When a player is suspended, they are suspended without pay, yet Irsay didn't get hit with a similar punishment creating a perceived double standard – and as the team owner, the money he'll make over those six games will outweigh the fine imposed on him. By far. To provide some perspective, Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker stands to lose $1.8 million while serving his 4 game suspension. It was a punishment that has left a bad taste in the mouths of NFL players with many being quoted as saying it is a “double standard,” calling it,“bull**it” and another case of “Roger taking it easy on his boss.”
7 The Reinstatement of Josh Brent
In June 2009, Dallas Cowboys defensive end, Josh Brent, pled guilty to driving while intoxicated and was hit with a minimal legal punishment. In 2012 ,however, Brent – again driving under the influence – was involved in a car wreck that killed teammate Jerry Brown. Police estimate that Brent was driving anywhere between 110-135mph when the accident occurred – in a 45mph zone. Since then, Brent has spent time in jail for his crimes. He has also failed several drug tests since then, showing he's learned nothing. Despite those facts, Goodell chose to reinstate Brent, making him eligible to return to the field in week 11 this season – regardless of the fact that he killed somebody because he made the decision to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. Though some harp on about second chances, playing in the NFL is a privilege and not a right, and by reinstating Brent, Goodell has sent a horrible message that once again proves that as long as you have talent, you will have a home in the NFL.
6 Ben Roethlisberger's Suspension
Back in 2010, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault. Twice. Investigations into both incidents were conducted and in both cases, police and prosecutors declined to press charges citing a lack of evidence. Roethlisberger may be guilty for all we know. But he might not be. But what we know for certain is that he was never charged, let alone convicted, of a crime. Despite that however, Goodell invoked the NFL's “personal conduct” policy to justify suspending Roethlisberger for 6 games – later reduced to 4 games. Roethlisberger lost a lot of money in those games he was forced to sit out for merely being accused of wrongdoing. It further shows that Goodell's use of the league's personal conduct policy, as well as his ever expanding punishment power as the NFL's judge, jury, and executioner, is horribly uneven, but even worse, is apparently applied on Goodell's whims.
5 Greg Hardy
While there's no videotape of the incident, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy does have a criminal conviction for domestic violence on the record. The testimony of his former girlfriend, Nicole Holder, is downright chilling and speaks to a man out of control. Holder testified that Hardy grabbed her, choked her, hit her with a toilet seat, threw her onto a bed filled with an array of guns, and told her that he would “kill her.” Hardy has appealed his conviction to a jury trial – a facet of North Carolina law. But neither the team, nor the league has acted on Hardy, citing the fact that they're letting the “legal process play out.” And all the while, Hardy continues to suit up and play. It's all the more glaring given the fact that unlike Ben Rothliesberger who was suspended for mere accusations, Hardy has not only been charged with domestic violence, but convicted of it by a judge.
4 Randy Starks
Long before there was a Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, or Ray McDonald, there was Randy Starks. Shortly after Goodell took over the Commissioner's office in 2006, Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Randy Starks was arrested on charges of domestic violence. The police report on the incident said that Starks' girlfriend “lost some fingernails during the scuffle, and had her head slammed into a wall.” With an opportunity to set a hard line against domestic violence in the NFL, and make good on the promises he made to clean up the game when he assumed office, Goodell took a pass on the whole incident and Starks missed just one game – an exhibition game at that. To make the matter more egregious, it was Titans coach Jeff Fisher – and not Roger Goodell – who suspended Starks for the game. On the issue of domestic violence in his league, Goodell was nowhere to be found. And since then, there has been a long list of players arrested for domestic violence in the league, and Goodell has likewise, been absent on the issue.
3 Ray Rice
We knew from the start that Ravens running back Ray Rice punched his then-fiancee/now-wife Janay Palmer so hard, that he knocked her out completely. The initial police report and charging documents said as much. And the first video that surfaced, that which showed Rice dragging Palmer's limp, unconscious body out of the elevator with as much care as you'd have for your average sack of potatoes, should have been more than enough for Goodell to drop the hammer on him. Yet despite all that we knew from the get-go, Goodell saw fit two give Rice an incredibly paltry two-game suspension. Wes Welker received 4 games for popping a Molly – as did a number of other players this offseason. It all combined to create the impression that Goodell did not take a man knocking his fiancee out cold as seriously as he takes somebody smoking a joint. It's a terrible perception, especially given Goodell's efforts to win over a female audience. Rice's initial suspension was an absolute joke – but was just one more brick in an otherwise long line of incompetence and ineptitude.
2 Ray Rice Pt. II
It seems that hour by hour, the Ray Rice/Roger Goodell story just keeps getting worse and worse for the league. With reports from New Jersey authorities that they'd handed over the incriminating video from inside the elevator that has set the world on fire, it appears that perhaps Goodell knew more than he said. The best case scenario is that he – and his staff – are incompetent. The worst is that they are complicit in a coverup. What did he know and when did he know it are the questions everybody is asking right now. And based on reports from various sources – including Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome – Goodell knew from the start what that video was going to show. Because Rice himself told him. Yet Goodell still gave Rice the initial two game ban, and has made a thousand different justifications for it. It appears that in trying to protect a big name and marquee performer in the league – meaning, a big money maker for the NFL – Goodell overstepped his bounds, handled the situation completely wrong. He continues to do so at every turn, and is trying to cover it up in the vain hope it all goes away.
1 Lack of Credibility, Lack of Integrity, Lack of Leadership
When Goodell took over the Commissioner's office, he promised to bring credibility, and integrity with him, vowing to clean up the game of all the bad seeds and problem children. So tough was his rhetoric, Time Magazing labeled him “The Enforcer” from the start. Since then, he's done nothing but what's in the best interests of the owners and the financial bottom line of the league. He's been wildly inconsistent with his rules, his punishments, and his authority. He's attempting to run the NFL like a dictatorship in which he is the sole voice of discipline, acting as the judge, jury, and executioner for the league. But he's got a problem in that to be the leader of a massive organization like the NFL, you need credibility and integrity – both things that Goodell is absolutely missing. There is a void of leadership in the Commissioner's office precisely because he's making things up as he goes along and is attempting to seize even more power, which leads to the wild inconsistencies in his dealings with players. Goodell has made the NFL owners an enormous pile of cash in his tenure, but he is nowhere near fit nor worthy to sit in the Commissioner's chair.