NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, is taking incredible heat over the league’s handling of player misconduct. Fans need to remember that the commissioner serves at the pleasure of the owners and that this heat is misdirected. Granted, it’s easier to focus wrath on a single point of contact, but nearly 100% of the owners have backed Goodell because he’s deflecting criticism they should be taking.
Goodell is bumbling and stumbling over himself as he backpedals and apologizes for the league’s failure to properly align punishment with behavior. He’s hired assistants to help provide cover for the domestic violence issues and the bad PR with women. Sponsors are starting to pull endorsements for teams as well as the league, and that’s got their serious attention because money is the mother’s milk of football. Also, October is breast cancer awareness month and players will be adorned with pink uniform accoutrements. Imagine the seething hypocrisy many of the females in the viewing audience will be feeling. But folks are still missing the bigger point. What about the player arrests for DUI, drugs, assault and battery, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest, guns, stalking, theft, and obstruction of justice? The list is a mile long and the broader issue has yet to surface. The NFL’s win-at-all-costs culture still supersedes the common sense of employing individuals of good character.
This weekend is a very critical launching point to confront the issue. Readers of this page know I am a Washington Redskins fan and an ardent supporter of the Maryland Terrapins, but the team I am rooting for most is the Clemson Tigers. Their opponent, Florida State University, suspended starting quarterback Jameis Winston for the first half of the upcoming game for making lewd comments about women in public.
Fan reaction in the current climate was predictable (outrage) and FSU backpedaled and suspended Winston for the entire game. Winston is the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner and led the Siminoles to the national championship in 2013, but the FSU fanbase is sickened by his behavior. Last year he was under investigation for sexual assault (charges dropped but now being re-investigated by the university), convicted of shoplifting seafood from a supermarket, and generally cannot stay out of trouble. He epitomizes everything that is wrong with the win-first culture. A Clemson victory would do more than validate the consequences for this miscreant’s behavior. It could further expose the cultural failings that permeate the game.
The bigger question will be answered a year or two down the road. Will the NFL owners have the guts and or common sense to pass on this individual when he seeks to get drafted and play professional football despite his physical talents? It may take longer than a couple of years but I think we are moving in the right direction.