NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has not been a stranger to hypocrisy in his tenure and he is off to impressive start in August. Goodell is always willing to throw his body in front of a controversy and act as a human shield for the owners, so that he is always the bad guy and takes all of the negative press away from them. In that respect, Goodell is fantastic at his job even if he appears to be a vile person to both players and fans in the process. It is only the first of the month and Goodell is already at least ankle deep in two instances of incredible hypocrisy: First, in the morning with some predictable but stunning comments about the situation with Riley Cooper and then later in the day with comments at a press conference in Berea about the owner of the Cleveland Browns, Jimmy Haslam.
The first was this morning when on ESPN’s Mike and Mike, when asked about Riley Cooper’s comments in the same light as the Redskins nickname, Goodell not shocking said, ” “I don’t see a comparison. That’s a name that has always represented pride, heritage, tradition; the things that, I think, have made Redskins fans so proud of that name. And they have always presented the Redskins in a positive light. We have to continue to be open and continue to listen, but we also want to make sure we’re doing what’s right to encourage that heritage and that pride we have in the Redskins name.”
Goodell described the comment by Cooper as “obviously wrong, insensitive and unacceptable,” which are all accurate descriptors. There should not be a place for racism in the NFL, but it is difficult to say that and stand by it when the name and logo of one of the franchises in it is one big, racial slur. And there are more than a few people who would describe the Redskins moniker as “obviously wrong, insensitive and unacceptable.” Goodell’s ability to say this type of stuff with a straight face is impressive and a skill some might even envy. For a team name that is apparently a source of pride, no Native American has jumped up and stepped forward to defend the name. This should not be difficult, since it is a source of pride and there should be no shortage of Native Americans to jump up and embrace it. Goodell has little choice since Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has been defiant in his stance on the team’s name and has entrenched himself in a position where he refuses to even consider changing the name, but it makes it awfully tough for the NFL to take any kind of credible stance on racism. There is no franchise in the league with an uglier record on race than the Redskins, both in their name and logo but also with their staunch refusal to accept African American players until it became unbelievably embarrassing and the league mandated a move.
In Berea, when asked about Haslam’s legal situation and the lawsuit involving his company, Pilot Flying J, Goodell said NFL’s procedure is to “let the criminal process unfold. … Sometimes we don’t have all the facts & we need to do that.” The immediate reaction was to look for the rest of the statement that said “unless you’re a player, in which case I will go ahead and do whatever I want.” Haslam works for the owners and carries their water, but this is outright ridiculous. Goodell announced himself as the sheriff of the NFL and has not hesitated to suspend players for being arrested without letting the criminal process play unfold. And by the way, this stance Goodell has taken the position of commissioner, has not worked. At all. The arrest rates are consistent with what they were before Goodell came into power, so for his being tough and trying to remake the NFL’s image after Paul Tagliague? Other than granting himself unprecedented power for the commissioner’s office to govern the players, his platform has been a complete failure.
Goodell is going to back the billionaires that pay his salary as opposed to the millionaires and thousandaires they employ, but it seems as though owners should be held to a higher standard rather than a lower one. It is an ugly and ridiculous precedent that is all too common in business. Even in the worst case scenario, the NFL is going to stand behind Haslam and protect his investment while players are treated as disposable.
Goodell does not care about the players or the fans beyond their ability to produce revenue. This is the commissioner who preaches safety for the players but has been working nonstop to get more regular season games to get the owners more money. He insists on ‘fixing’ the Pro Bowl because it makes money and 10 million people watched it last year rather than getting rid of the piss poor exhibition of the sport. In a league that is competing with the comforts of home and the technology of television, the people who continue to buy season tickets are forced to pay full freight for preseason games.
The owners in the NFL think Goodell is their knight in shining armor. He is not only pushing an agenda they want but does it in such an obnoxious and abrasive way that allows the owners to get away with it Scot free and critics take aim at Goodell. They get more money which in turn gets him more money. For fans and especially players, he is an out of control megalomaniac and snake oil salesman that only sees the league and landscape as a way to make more money, but they are putting up with it for the time being. The problem is that right now, the NFL drives the bus in the sports landscape by a wide margin and even the most idiotic and reckless ideas from its commissioner are going to have an incredibly difficult time derailing that momentum. As long as the public at large has an unending appetite for the NFL, Goodell is going to push for and squeeze every single penny out of fans, use the players like so much cattle, and do little to hide it. Until he reaches a breaking point where there is a legitimate backlash from fans or the players, Goodell is not going to stop and the hypocrisy will only get more absurd in the process. He is virtually unstoppable, but for Goodell, that likely is a source of pride, heritage, and tradition.