Commissioner Roger Goodell and his buddies in the National Football League office are under some serious heat. In just the last few months, almost all of the skeletons in the league policy closet have come out.
Never before has a league been as scrutinized and embarrassed as the NFL has in recent weeks. Pete Rozelle faced his fair share of criticism in his time as league commissioner for his handling of the JFK assassination aftermath, his work in merging the AFL and NFL, and his conflict with Al Davis, but that was nothing compared to all this.
Between moving kickoffs up and trying to move extra point attempts back, they have already been angering fans for years with these “improvements” to the game. The true underlying problem of the league has been its’ insanely backwards and outdated policies that have all come to a head over the last few months of the offseason into the start of this fresh season. These policies, including concussion protocol, the substance abuse/performance enhancing drug program, and the domestic abuse policy have cost the league some serious PR. I won’t even mention the ever developing Ray Rice situation yet.
The concussion protocol of the league has been under the spotlight for a few years now, only escalating over the last season or two. (However, you can thank Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue for completely ignoring the concussion problem for their entire terms as commissioner. This is a problem Goodell was forced to inherit.) The league enacted stricter guidelines for concussion protocol in 2010 and in recent years, but many question the effectiveness of these rules. After watching players like Wes Welker (with many previous concussions) return to play barely a week after getting his head crushed, it seems like not much has changed. Goodell took over a policy of denying any previous knowledge of the concussion problem until he was forced into acknowledging the problem. Now that we are seeing these players get older and having all sorts of problems, it finally becomes important to league officials. Now that we have multiple lawsuits from players against the league, suddenly it is an important issue. The NFL is great at denying problems until they are forced to face them.
The substance abuse/performance enhancing drug policies of the NFL have proven to be off-base for quite a while. This hit a turning point when Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon was suspended an entire season for testing positive for .01 nanograms of marijuana in his system. .01 nanograms can be in your blood stream if you inhale secondhand smoke. They took away a year of work from a man for that. The current NFL policy allows one chance without suspension for substance abuse but calls for an immediate suspension if found guilty of using a performance enhancing drug. Too many suspensions have occurred over the last few years over testing positive for adderall. I’ve never once heard a good explanation for how adderall could possibly improve performance on the football field. Guys like our buddy Wes Welker face immediate 4 game suspensions for such a harmless medication, even if they’ve tested clean for their entire career. In the next few hours, the league will vote to approve a new policy that changes the classification of adderall and raises the tolerable amounts of marijuana in a player’s system for a failed test. The revision will also finally allow for HGH testing of players, which is long overdue. Roger Goodell could have improved these policies years ago when he took over. It’s humorous that it took until two of the leagues’ top receivers were suspended to finally revise the rules.
Then we have the now-famous domestic abuse policy failures. The way we look at domestic abuse in this country is unacceptable and the NFL is now a glaring example of that. (Thanks Ray Rice.) When the league only suspended Ray Rice 2 games for his “alleged” abuse on his fiancé, it raised a lot of eyebrows. Compare that to Josh Gordon’s year-long suspension for having a bit of weed in his system and things don’t add up. Once Goodell realized the outrage, the league finally implemented a new policy for domestic abuse that suspends first-time offenders for 6 games and an indefinite ban for second-time offenders. People were still angry about the original 2 game decision but the league and the Baltimore Ravens acted as though nothing had happened and Ray Rice was the victim in all of this. Fast forward a few weeks and uh-oh! We’ve finally got video showing Rice punching his fiancé so hard she hits the railing and is knocked out cold. Now it’s time for the NFL to acknowledge their mistake, once again LONG past due. They claim they hadn’t seen the video of inside the elevator. I say who cares?! The whole world got to see the video of him dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator back in February. How do you think she ended up like that?! Now that there’s video for the whole world to see though, the league takes responsibility. Rice has been cut, suspended indefinitely, and stripped of all endorsements and any honor he may have had left. The situation was completely mishandled from the beginning and those responsible in the league office should be held accountable. The domestic abuse policy of the league was a joke and it only became important when it looked bad on the NFL.
The bottom line is, the National Football League has its’ priorities in all the wrong places. They have a league that is more successful than all of the other professional sports leagues combined, yet it seems like they are trying to destroy it most of the time. It’s pretty simple Roger, leave the game the way it is. That’s the part that works and keeps people coming back. Revise your conduct policies to fit modern society and keep your player’s safe to the best of your ability. Much like any big corporation, the NFL has become too profit driven while attempting to kill the game we all love in the process. Many people are calling for the resignation of Roger Goodell after his handling of the Ray Rice situation. At first, that seems too extreme. The more you look at his poor mishandling of most situations since taking over as commissioner in 2006, it does not sound so crazy. Maybe it is time for you to go Mr. Goodell.