It appears that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is not particularly good at his job. This, unfortunately, is not news to anyone. The backlash Goodell has been subjected to isn’t the first whiff of disapproval the NFL’s commissioner of eight years, or even the NFL as a whole, has caught. Two summers ago, 61 percent of NFL players polled were discontent with the job Goodell has done since taking the reins, and in the wake of a heap of controversy, a 39 percent approval rating seems almost too high to be true.
Goodell has shown patterns of modest treatment for violence, and a reluctance to punish players accordingly. Whether it was the four-game suspension for Plaxico Burress after he carried a gun into a nightclub, the four-game suspension for Ben Roethlisberger following multiple sexual assault allegations, the New Orleans Bountygate scandal or the persistent concussion lawsuits, Goodell stared opportunity in the eyes time and time again. When former players came knocking, he tried to throw $760 million to settle the situation and sweep it under the rug. Not to mention, 3 out of 10 NFL players are estimated to suffer from some form of Alzheimer’s or Dementia, with dozens more likely to contract Parkinson’s and all is business as usual for the NFL.
This is why Goodell’s atrocious handling of the Ray Rice situation — oh, and the intersecting Greg Hardy, Jonathan Dwyer and Adrian Peterson situations — has not been surprising in the least. Let’s look at the facts: This is a league that systematically kills its employees year in and year out, and whose only feeble attempts at a solution have been based on paying those suffering to shut up. How could anyone have expected the league office to try to protect a fraction of the women of society when it can’t even protect its own employees
If the NFL weren’t such a profitable business, they’d be run out of town with lawsuits left and right leaving them bankrupt. But the league continues to attract viewers — the same ones who criticize their petty antics (myself included). And therein lies the problem. 17.6 million viewers on average tuned in to each regular season telecast in 2013. For the entire season, they amassed 205 million unique viewers — 81 percent of all homes in the United States that contain a television. As long as their brand continues to grow and cash continues to fill their pockets, the behavior won’t change. If you give Kindergarten students lollipops after they steal someone’s toys, are they going to magically change the way they act?
Football is a guilty pleasure for some; it certainly is for me. Those who love the game are more than aware of the effect it has on players, whether they be professional, collegiate or in high school. They know brain damage is counter-productive to the college education the teenagers should be getting, and that the open field collisions that bring them off their couches excitedly are more than likely to one day lead to brain disease. Awareness is not the problem. What the problem is, is that we love, as human beings, have a bizarre affinity for violent competition, going all the way back to gladiator fights in the days of the Roman Empire.
Until we’re willing to take a holistic stand against the NFL — essentially boycotting and abstaining from watching football on Sunday — their cycle of passive antics will continue. There’s no reason for Roger Goodell to extensively suspend or ban his players if he knows fans will tune in and watch every Sunday regardless.