NFL’s Roger Goodell cares more for cash than safety
It really has been fascinating to watch the flames climb on this New Orleans Saints story, the emperor of a very violent business feeding a howling and eager media one crumb at a time, keeping this dirty story in front of the eyes of his customers for more than a month now. You remember how NFL commissioner Roger Goodell became famous, right? For unprecedented penalties against players who dared to bring bad publicity for extended periods upon the league’s shield. That’s what he calls it, the shield. He did not want arrests and negativity in front of his paying customers in the news cycle, staining his shield, so he’d come down on misbehavior from repeat offenders with a punitive fury previously unseen in major American sports.
But the Saints bounty story has been so different, prepared and packaged for our consumption by the NFL. That’s unusual, and not only because every ex-jock on TV is telling you that everybody in the NFL workplace did the kinds of things the scapegoated Saints are being sacrificed for today. Goodell clearly wants this in the news. He wants people to be shocked and outraged and clucking. And, yes, safety is his primary concern ... if by that you mean keeping his league safe from lawsuits. This is all a shield for his shield, you might say.
First, in this media age when no one can keep a secret, nobody broke the Saints bounties story. The NFL volunteered it. Revealed it in an announcement after a private investigation. How often does that happen, exactly? And Goodell was quoted in that initial statement saying very sternly that this wouldn’t be tolerated. That marinated in the news cycle for weeks. Then came the jaw-dropping punishments for the organization and executives. That marinated in the news cycle for a few more weeks. Next up: The players. And a few more weeks. Drama building over time, like with all the best dramatic soap operas.
That’s quite a bit different than how Goodell handled Spygate, when his most famous coach was caught cheating and Goodell had to defend the NFL destroying the incriminating tapes and investigation notes before a United States senator. Goodell doesn’t want this buried. Quite the opposite. He wants his handling of this out in front of everybody for as long as he can keep it there. That’s why the NFL’s initial release went out of its way to use the word “bounty.” That’ll get the media’s attention every time. Call it a “big-hit pool” instead of a “bounty,” and you’ve got a nation of football fans shrugging instead of a national debate about right and wrong.
The barbaric nature of football hasn’t merely been tolerated for decades; it has been celebrated. Everyone in the pipeline teaching it and learning it embraces the violence, and everyone who doesn’t is viewed as a sissy. That’s the culture, these bounties not unlike the Code Red in A Few Good Men. If Goodell had wanted this story to be about merely safety and punishment and protecting the league from bad publicity, he would have done it more privately, and punished everyone at once so that it would stay in the news for a couple of days instead of a couple of months. But he has made a big show of this with the help of an enabling media. The punishments, excessive and unprecedented as they are, aren’t as important as everyone noticing them.
Because there is one thing the NFL cares about far more than player safety, image or anything else: The dollar. The NFL is an absurdly profitable violent business, recently doubling TV dollars that were already insane. It somehow keeps getting even bigger, even though it is already the biggest. And about the only thing that can derail that is your sad, old, former employees limping through a courtroom en masse with canes and wheelchairs and a multibillion-dollar lawsuit accusing you of negligence because you were dishonest about the brain dangers of your workplace. And Goodell, a bit too late, is suddenly very interested in giving off the appearance that he won’t tolerate this violence that, you know, was sold in big-hit videos just a few years ago.
In 2006, the NFL’s concussion committee and appointed rheumatologist — not a neurologist, mind you — declared that concussions “in professional football are not serious injuries.” This was after Hall of Fame center Mike Webster died homeless and demented at age 50, concluding dinner parties back when he had a home by urinating in the oven in front of his family and friends because his brain wasn’t working right. Medical scientists contradicted the conclusions of the NFL’s committee, and torched the methodology, while the NFL tried to discredit doctors such as Bennet Omalu, the pioneer who discovered the obvious link after studying the brains of the NFL’s deceased. Goodell, so very late to this particular party, is in a huge hurry to catch up, and the Saints are the ones being trampled in his overzealous wake.
All over the country right now, former players with depression and dementia are gathering with lawyers. Christmas week, lawsuits were filed in Miami and Atlanta with dozens of players. On Jan. 31, a multidistrict federal judicial panel approved six cases being tried together in Philadelphia, former Vikings guard Brent Boyd quoted as saying, “Here might be the weapon that brings the mighty billionaires to their knees and forces them to accept their liability.”
The emperor of a very violent business wants his barbaric gladiators to stop behaving like barbaric gladiators, right now, today, this minute, and he’s filing it under safety because that’s a lot easier to cheer than the real reason — liability. And he’s in such a big hurry to do it that it is disorienting for menacing people such as Steelers linebacker James Harrison. It is like the porn industry waking up one morning and deciding that sex is bad.
Former Dolphins player Oronde Gadsden is named in the Miami lawsuit. Contacted Saturday to talk about his ailments, he politely declined, saying he didn’t want to say anything that might dissuade other players with brain injuries from coming forward to join the suit. Very publicly, Goodell might have gotten the little ol’ Saints, but there’s an army of his violent former employees gathering in strength more privately. Bounty hunters, you might call them, as they prepare to hit the NFL in the place it hurts most.
Read more here: NFL’s Roger Goodell cares more for cash than safety - Dan Le Batard - MiamiHerald.com
This is completely true. Goodell only fined the Saints because of player lawsuits and to cover their **s in court. This could have been stopped a long time ago with the Redskins.
I am so happy to see some writers FINALLY discussing this whole thing for what it really is.
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