Roger Goodell and Domestic Violence
I’m done with Ray Rice. You messed up, bro. You owned it, and I’m just going to watch you cautiously from here on out and hope you follow through on your words.
I’m more disappointed with Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh for saying, “It’s not a big deal” over and over again when asked about Rice’s suspension.
But I’m most disappointed in Roger Goodell. “The Enforcer.” I felt like I was the last guy on the planet defending Goodell as being a good commissioner and I’m starting to feel like a real idiot about it.
At first I was shocked at Goodell’s lack of give a shit on this issue. For a married guy with twin daughters, I thought for sure Ray Rice would have at least four games coming, but expected six (what Roethlisberger originally got). But then he got two games and people were understandably outraged.
I’m not as outraged with the fact that Rice only got two games as I am with that Roger Goodell doesn’t feel the need to explain to us why. It was like the NFL handed down this suspension that 90% of everyone thought was light and when we called on Goodell to tell us why, he kind of just gave everyone the finger.
Let’s ignore for a moment that the suspension was hypocritical in light of the NFL’s campaign to get women more involved in the game, make mother’s feel more comfortable with putting their kids in football with the Heads Up program and highlighting the concussion issue, and the month-long Breast Cancer Awareness campaign that happens every year. Let’s even ignore that you get suspended more games for accepting “freebies” in college, smoking weed, doing steroids, or unknowingly taking a fertility pill that happens to contain banned substances. Instead let’s talk about Roger Goodell as a leader, and highlight exactly why Goodell feels he doesn’t have to explain why Ray Rice only got a two-game suspension for beating the shit out of his wife on camera.
You see, Roger Goodell is what we call “a shit-terrible leader” who only cares about cash flow. That’s why he feels like he doesn’t have to address this issue for fans. Leaders understand that they need to communicate to everyday, Joe-Shmo guys like you and me why it is they choose to do what they do. Maybe Goodell was privy to some information in the case that led him to only suspend Ray for two games (I can’t imagine what that information could possibly be, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt here). Maybe it turns out that Ray’s fiancé was super-drunk and had a knife on her in the elevator and Ray hit her out of fear (again, RIDICULOUS, but work with me here). Whatever it is, you gotta tell us something, Roger.
Because when you don’t tell me why Ray Rice only got suspended two games, after I listen to Ray take ALL the blame and responsibility and place it solely on his own shoulders, this is the narrative I draw:
– Because Rice has always been “a stand-up guy,” it somehow means we now punish people based on who they’ve been in the past and not what they do in the present.
Side Note: “Stand-up guys” are only stand-up guys until they aren’t stand-up guys anymore. And even stand-up guys make mistakes that ought to be punished.
– Or you suspended Rice lightly because you know you’re going to have to suspend Irsay next and want to set a happier, less-fire-and-brimstone, lighter tone (Hey, it’s New Testament Roger Goodell!)
– Or you suspended Rice lightly because he’s one of the five best running backs in football (I mean seriously guys, if some third-string back did this do we think he would’ve gotten anything less than eight games??)
– OR… or you just don’t think domestic violence is a big deal.
But you’re telling me domestic violence is a big deal. You said that today when reporters finally cornered you and you actually had the nerve to be angry with them for questioning the almighty. But you couldn’t leave it there, you went further by stating that Rice’s suspension was “consistent” with other punishments handed down in the past and drastic action wasn’t taken because “no legal action” was levied against Rice.
Side Note: The very fact that you felt it was appropriate to address an issue as serious as domestic violence in a media scrum rather than at a podium as the leader of the most powerful sports organization in America is an astounding testament to your tone-deafness.
But actually Roger, you got me there. This is pretty consistent with your handling of domestic violence issues in the past. I remember you did absolutely nothing when Dez Bryant hit his mother in a domestic violence incident.
Side Note: Bryant eventually admitted to hitting his mom. NFL said, “No charges filed! He’s good to go!”
Brian Dawkins made a good point on ESPN about thermostats and thermometers. Sometimes you need to find out how the public feels about an issue. We’re in a “thermometer” time with the issue of marijuana in this country. People’s opinions are evolving, medical opinions are changing. “Thermometer” issue. But good leaders understand when you ignore the thermometer and set the thermostat.
You missed a great opportunity to set the thermostat, Roger.
You didn’t even have to be all big and demonstrative about it. I’ll even give you a pass for not aggressively setting the tone. You could have even gone the other way and been very matter-of-fact about it. “Umm, yea, punching your wife in the head and knocking her out is not something we condone in the NFL. So, Rice is suspended for six games.” It could have been that easy. Quick statement. Send a tweet, something, ANYTHING.
You blew a great opportunity to make a stand about the broader issue of domestic violence. You want to suspend Rice for two games, even zero games? OK, fine. I’m going to disagree with you, but I’ll listen to you. Tell me why. Prove to me that you’re taking this seriously. Don’t take minimal action and say NOTHING about it afterwards. Because when you don’t explain why, when you tell us nothing, when you get angry with us for questioning why, you’re sending a message: domestic violence is not that big a deal.
I heard some idiot on ESPN today say that the length of the suspension doesn’t matter because it doesn’t make a difference in terms of the broader impact on reducing domestic violence. That’s the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard and I can’t believe someone who gets paid to speak intelligently for a living could be so naïve. Of course it makes a difference. You mean to tell me the NFL saying, “We take domestic violence seriously and therefore suspended Rice two games,” and “We take domestic violence seriously and therefore suspended Rice a whole season” send the same message to the American public? Please. Grow up and get off my TV.
Because of the wild success and rapid growth of the NFL over the past decade, Goodell is dangerously close to becoming untouchable. I think the punishments handed down to Josh Gordon and Jim Irsay in the coming weeks will be very telling. But I struggle with the notion that because Goodell is “privy to information we are not” he can make unquestionable judgments that are inconsistent with other punishments handed down. I think Goodell makes decisions as “Commissioner in charge of making as much money as possible” instead of “Commissioner, protector of the shield” as he advertises or, “Commissioner, father and husband.”