Embattled NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held an afternoon press conference yesterday to address the rash of domestic violence issues that are threatening the very fabric of league policies. After initially admitting that he failed in suspending Ray Rice for two games, he admitted today, again, that he failed to properly address subsequent issues of abuse. His speech came from a person under duress, sorely lacking in leadership.
What was markedly absent in his speech today was a firm, no-nonsense policy in dealing with abuse going forward. Instead, he announced the formation of a committee that will review all facets of NFL policies dealing with violence and abuse. That committee has not yet been formed, nor have members been identified.
Another blatant omission in his speech was the lack of reference to the victims. Apparently, “getting the house in order” is more important than ensuring the well-being of past victims, all of whom are women and children. It is the victims that are driving NFL policy. Public outcry is appalled at the severity and cruelty of the abuse. The public and sponsors, alike, are determined to stop these acts of violence and ensure that spousal and child abuse be punished firmly and quickly.
Roger Goodell’s “mea culpa,” however, is meaningless as long as the NFL is intent on allowing the “due process” sequence to unfold. While it is within everyone’s legal right to a fair trial, that process is far from a quick one. So how will the NFL address that interim period? Goodell, displaying a lack of leadership, failed to address that issue. To date, the league’s disposition of punishment to the players involved has been inadequate and lacking consistency. His recently imposed policy regarding domestic violence has been largely ignored and appears headed for the scrap heap before seeing the light of day.
There are many examples about how to deal with individuals awaiting their “due process” rights. But most conform to separating those individuals from the workplace until their legal entanglements are resolved. Police officers are often suspended from duty with pay while their issue takes its legal course. In his own house, the Denver Broncos suspended two executives quickly and decisively when their transgressions surfaced. It took the Minnesota Vikings two attempts before they got it right by suspending Adrian Peterson with pay while he travels the “due course” highway.
There is nothing wrong with Goodell establishing a committee to oversee all aspects of the league’s conduct policy. What is surprising is that it took this long for the commissioner to realize that it was flawed. There have been past complaints that Goodell was judge, jury, and executioner when it came to doling out punishment. He, unilaterally, determined punishment and heard player’s appeals.
Players reacted quickly to Goodell’s news conference on Twitter. Tedy Bruschi stated on NFL live, “I want a new commissioner to lead my league…Goodell needs to step down.” Hall-of-Famer Troy Aikman tweeted, “Commissioner is hiding behind the ‘appeal process’ kinda like ‘due process’.” Lastly, Derrick Mason posted “I thought it was a no tolerance policy in the NFL.”
As the league forges ahead in these uncharted abuse waters, it is apparent that strong leadership will be paramount. Another “mea culpa” is not what the public and players expected. This press conference screamed for Roger Goodell to provide strong leadership. That leadership was sorely lacking. In Roger Goodell’s own words, “Ignorance is not an excuse.”
Opinion by Hans Benes
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