The NFL is the premier league in American sports. 185 million people consider themselves to be fans. The NFL is a force of nature financially, increasing its revenue every single season without any sign of slowing down. In 2014, the league made an estimated $12 billion, a 14.3 percent jump from 2013. In 2011, the NFL signed nine-year extensions to its broadcast television packages with Fox, NBC and CBS under which the networks are expected to pay roughly 60 percent more. The deal totaled $27 billion by itself.
The man at the helm of the league is Roger Goodell. Taking the commissioner at face value the finances would lead you to believe he is doing an outstanding job. The NFL sells: The vast majority of families in America are tuned in and addicted to games every Sunday afternoon. The NFL is one of the strongest business organizations in America. During Week 8 this season, 29.4 million people tuned into Seahawks-Cowboys alone. Putting this all into perspective: Barack Obama makes $400,000 a year as the leader of the free world. Roger Goodell makes $44 million as commissioner of the NFL.
Goodell is one of the most powerful men in America. Underneath the shell of Roger lies an out of touch, and greedy individual. Let’s start with CTE. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a progressive degenerative disease found in people who have suffered repetitive brain trauma. It’s well documented that the NFL has been downplaying concussions and dangers of football for decades. CTE was originally discovered in 2005 by Dr. Bennet Omalu and is one of the most dangerous threats to the NFL. 87 out of 91 deceased former NFL players autopsied have tested positive for CTE as of Fall 2015. Despite the glaring horrific statistics, Roger Goodell and the NFL still deny there is a link between CTE and football. League doctor Joseph Maroon appeared on NFL Total Access this past march and proclaimed, “The problem of CTE although real is it’s being over-exaggerated and it’s being extrapolated to youth football and to high school football”. Dr. Maroon I challenge you to tell the family of Jovan Belcher who killed his girlfriend, drove to Arrowhead Stadium and killed himself in front of the Chiefs GM and head coach that CTE is over-exaggerated. Or the family of Junior Seau who committed suicide while suffering from CTE. This is the same family that received calls from NFL management during Seau’s autopsy denouncing Omalu’s professional ethics, qualifications, and motivation. Dr. Omalu was then removed from his position as the Brain Injury Institute. Let this sink in: The NFL deliberately ruining the reputation of a renowned scientist in order to cover up the connection of CTE and pro football.
Over the years as science and technology has continued to power forward and the risks of football have been exposed. Players are now more wary than ever about personal health and the risk of the game. The 16 game season wears down the players. Large chunks of NFL rosters are devastated by traumatic injuries. It is effectively become the modern day gladiator sport. Bears tight end Desmond Clark once said, “When you get into December, you’re like walking zombies. You can’t feel your joints.” What does the NFL and Roger Goodell lobby for in return? Increasing the length of the regular season. Thank God (for the player’s sake) that league and NFLPA ultimately shot down that idea for the foreseeable future. However, just this past week Goodell compared the risk of football to in a recliner: “If I had a son, I would love for him to play football … There’s risk in life. There’s risk in sitting on the couch.” He just doesn’t get it.
Goodell showed just how out of touch he is with player safety concerns by inking a $900 million deal with CBS and NBC to air Thursday Night Football. The amount of Thursday games will grow to 10 games in 2016 and 2017 from eight games in 2014 and 2015, the league announced Monday. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin spoke out against Thursday games well before the increase, “I mean if you’re so concerned about player safety then why do you have every team in the league playing on Thursday night when they just competed on a Sunday, knowing how difficult it is for guys to get back to being healthy after playing on Sunday?”.
NFL owners and Roger Goodell are more than willing to sacrifice the well-being of the players in order to increase their revenue. Taking his mishandling of CTE, regular season expansion, and Thursday night games into account he stood before the Super Bowl press conference and declared, “There is no higher priority than player safety”. Does he even believe his own words? The sad part is, I think he does.
The only priority Roger Goodell concerns himself with is cash. He showed that yet again with his mishandling of the Ray Rice incident. In February 2014, Rice and his fiancee got into a physical altercation that resulted in the running back punching his future wife unconscious in an elevator. Despite multiple eyewitnesses describing the attack as vicious and horrific, Goodell handed Rice a light two game suspension. A video would surface later showing Rice attacking her just as vicious and horrific as eyewitnesses had originally professed. Due to the public outcry Rice was suspended indefinitely by the NFL and released by the Ravens. ESPN’s Outside The Lines would later release a report ridiculing Goodell’s failure to complete due diligence within the case. Louis Bien of SB Nation stated, “From over-delegation to assistants, to comically bad note taking, the OTL report paints Goodell as out of touch and ill-prepared to handle Rice’s case.”
Yet Goodell still firmly believes his primary responsibility as commissioner is protecting the integrity of the game and making it safer—”protecting the shield,” as he puts it. From a more reasonable perspective he would fail to either again during the 2012 season. Goodell and league officials failed to come to terms toward a new CBA with the league’s referees. A lockout would occur thereafter. The league was willing to walk away from the referees that were trained to maintain the health and safety of players for low-level college and high school officials. The same commissioner that claims his ultimate responsibility is to protect the integrity of the game, make it safer is willing to blatantly sacrifice both: undermining the safety of professional players by employing amateur referees.
Goodell went off on another tangent with Deflategate this past year. Instead of attempting to dedicate time toward issues like player safety or personal conduct, he decided to spend the majority of the summer battling Tom Brady and the Patriots over football PSI levels. In the end, Brady would win his appeal and Goodell wasted a huge amount of time and approximately $20 million dollars in legal expenses. The entire controversy was overblown into another embarrassment for the NFL. Goodell spent an entire year, heaps of money to nail Brady down and failed to do so. Battling it out in court with one of the greatest players of all time within their sport; unprecedented grounds for an already embattled commissioner. All over ball pressure. Silly when you think about it.
If only Roger cared as much about player safety, CTE, domestic violence, and player conduct as he did the pressure of a football. Every step and measure Goodell aims to take slams him right back in the face. I didn’t even mention other controversies such as Adrian Peterson and Bountygate. Goodell continues to prove that he is not a preferable commissioner for the National Football League. If the average American did as poorly of a job handling conflict as Goodell they would find themselves unemployed. The NFL and it’s owners should move away from him. It seems clear to me that having this individual run the league isn’t working. Owners can still make lucrative cash with another commissioner in power.
However, owners have not taken action. Greed is currently ruling over the league rather than common sense and integrity. Every team’s business is booming under the new CBA signed in July 2011. As Ben Volin stated in The Boston Globe, “The bad publicity of the last year hasn’t resulted in companies pulling sponsorships or reduced TV ratings. And as long as the owners continue to make gobs of money and Goodell takes the heat for the league’s problems, Goodell isn’t going anywhere.”