Goodell: The good guy?

Roger Goodell has been dubbed the ‘most powerful man in sports,’ he is also called a ‘tyrant’. Some have even called for him to step down throughout his first ten years as commissioner of the NFL. However, Goodell has served the NFL as not only a competent commissioner, but an exemplary one.

When Goodell entered office, the NFL was considered soft on player discipline. Goodell brought “law and order” to the NFL, handing out lengthy suspensions and fines to the likes of Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones, Chris Henry, Tank Johnson. He also dealt with the Michael Vick dog fighting controversy in 2007. He then suspended Donte Stallworth for a year after he was convicted of hitting and killing a man while under the influence in 2009.

In the latter half of his first 10 years, Goodell began to take criticism regarding player discipline. There are two sets of critics firing at Goodell on discipline: The first group was the domestic violence advocates who justly spoke out against the light punishment given to Ray Rice in 2014.

Those critics mostly went away when Goodell stiffened up on the personal conduct policy and domestic violence, and then followed through with Peterson and Hardy. The second group is the player/pro-player group that calls Goodell a ‘tyrant’ and believes the commissioner abuses his power when it comes to discipline. Some of the cases, such as the ‘Bountygate’ scandal critics, claim that Goodell abuses his power.

In 2013, Goodell suspended Ray Rice for two games after knocking out his girlfriend in a casino months earlier. The punishment was (justly) called weak by many, and the two game penalty seemed weak when more video of the incident was released showing Rice punching and knocking out his girlfriend in an elevator. Goodell then went back and upped his suspension on Rice, this time indefinitely.

Goodell deserves a lot of criticism for his actions in the Ray Rice situation. However, I believe his mistakes were more out ignorance and lack of awareness rather than apathy. Although it’s no excuse, society as a whole has only started to take domestic violence seriously enough in the past 10 years or so.

While Goodell did not handle the incident as strong as he should have in the first place, he learned from it. The commissioner knew he must be stricter with domestic violence suspensions. He did just that by adding a section for it in the personal conduct policy not too long afterward.

This was put into use in 2014. Adrian Peterson was indicted on child abuse after disciplining his son with a ‘switch.’ After playing one game, Goodell suspended and fined Peterson for the rest of the season even though he was not convicted of the crime.

Around the same time, Greg Hardy was found guilty of assault for an incident where he beat his ex-girlfriend. Goodell, having learned his mistakes from the Rice incident, asked for the pictures and worked with former Manhattan sex crimes persecutor Lisa Frei and other domestic violence activists. He came down hard on Hardy, suspending him for 10 games. It was only on appeal that the suspension was reduced to four games

Roger Goodell laid the hammer on New Orleans in 2012 after the league found the Saints had a set upa bounty system on opposing players. The investigation found that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and linebacker Johnathan Vilma ran a scheme that included payouts of $1,000 for ‘knockouts’ and $1,500 for ‘cart-offs.’ It also found that Head Coach Sean Payton actively covered up the scheme from past investigations.

Goodell handled justice swiftly in this case also. Williams was suspended indefinitely and not allowed to apply for reinstatement until the of the 2012 season. Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season and assistant coach Joe Vitt for six games. GM Micky Loomis was suspended for eight games.

Many called the penalties on the Saints too harsh, however in a time when the league was dealing with a massive class-action lawsuit from former players about head injuries and the disease they caused, Goodell was entirely just with these punishments.

The lawsuit, which was settled for $1,000,000,000 this year, is not only a financial threat to team owners, but could have long-lasting effects for the future of the league and the game. Parents are especially concerned about letting their children play a game that caused diseases like CTE.

The league was (and still today) trying to make the game safer in order to keep kids playing the game, to ensure for a strong base of future players and fans. Hearing about an NFL team placing ‘bounties’ on opponents alarmed Goodell who knew that if the league didn’t show that the practice was by no means tolerated, that parents would be even more concerned about letting their kids play.

Speaking of player safety and youth, Goodell has worked closely with USA Football to help teach proper technique to youth coaches and young players in order to try to limit injuries and concussions.

However, the biggest reason Roger Goodell will continue as NFL commissioner for the foreseeable future is that he is making the owners money – a lot of it. The bulk of the revenue comes from massive television deals for rights to air NFL games, in which Goodell has been the lead negotiator.

According to Forbes, the NFL had more than $13.3 billion in revenues in 2016, up 50% from 2010. His goal of $25 billion by 2027 is now in reach, making team owner’s mouths water.

Folks, Roger Goodell is here to stay and he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

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