If you travel outside of the Miami Dolphins fan base, where other NFL fans reside, the call for the head of Stephen Ross is commonly replaced with a call for Commissioner Roger Goodell‘s head. Goodell has probably endured more scrutiny than any other NFL Commish in history. Let’s face it, does anyone even remember the legacy left by Paul Tagliabue? Yeah, neither do I.
In the years since Tagliabue left and Goodell took over, the NFL has gone through an owners tift that resulted in opting out of the former CBA…coincidentally brokered by Tagliabue. He led the owners/league on a lockout, is being sued by 1,500 plus former players over concussions, was blasted for his handling of the New Orleans Saints bounty program and the “SpyGate” scandal that kept a cheating Bill Belichick on the field, and has been criticized repeatedly for his overbearing guidelines that fine players for just about everything as well as the disciplinary actions handed out off the field. Damn that was a long sentence. In other words, Goodell hasn’t exactly been heaped with praise.
Yet this NFL. Today’s NFL, needs a strong Commissioner like Roger Goodell to do not so much what is popular, but what is best.
Forget about the “TIME” article recently that outlines his discussions about removing the kick-off from the NFL game. This isn’t a piggyback article about the “TIME” feature. In fact this has more to do with the last two weekends than anything else. As in two deaths in the NFL. Goodell needs to be stronger, more stringent, and he needs to fix what’s wrong the players. Simply because the NFLPA has no desire to do so.
About right now I would go into a diatribe about how the NFLPA doesn’t look out for their own but instead expects everyone else to basically kiss their rears. Today however marks the 2nd week in a row that a player has lost his life. Whether it is on the field issues, concussion issues, or simply the pressure of playing at this level, the NFL needs to step in and Goodell specifically needs to put a stop to the off-field issues.
Today’s accident is no less tragic than the Javon Belcher incident a week ago. This morning, a car driven by Dallas Cowboy NT Josh Brent hit a curb at high-speed, flipped, and then skidded on along an access road where the fiery vehicle finally came to rest. Irving, TX police arrived on scene to find Brent trying to remove fellow Cowboy, practice squad LB Jerry Brown from the vehicle. Brown would be pronounced dead at the hospital. Brent was booked for intoxication manslaughter.
In other words, he was drunk.
This is hardly the first incident in the NFL of players having off-field issues. Ray Lewis was arrested in connection to a murder in Miami prior to a Super Bowl a decade ago. Another incident in Miami saw WR Donte’ Stallworth hit and kill a pedestrian early in the morning on his way to the beach. A member of the Rams, Leonard Little hit and killed a woman with an illegal blood count. The list goes on and on.
Yet most of them are still walking the streets. I doubt that Josh Brent will face a lifetime behind bars either. The public opinion of sports athletes in general is polished when it comes to run-ins with the law. In most cases, a normal U.S. citizen would lose their jobs for felony offenses including vehicular homicide. That doesn’t seem to be the norm with major sports. Including the NFL.
From drugs, murder, DUI, assault and battery, the NFL needs to stand up and in front and lead. They need to be tougher and frankly, Roger Goodell is pretty a tough Commissioner. However it’s time that he starts landing major punches in his battle to clean up the image of the NFL. In order to do that, he will need more than simple cooperation from the NFLPA.
This is not an NFL issue, it’s a player issues. Most NFL teams offer a free taxi service for their players should they be out and too drunk to drive. It’s not known how many actually use the service if provided. Not that it matters because DUI is only a part of the off-field problems faced by the league. Rape allegations, rising domestic abuse, and increased off-season problems are cause for concern. Who else needs to die or be hospitalized before the NFL finds a real penalty that will deter this kind of behavior?
Should there be a three strikes and your out of the league system? Should the NFL urge law enforcement officials to not show favoritism towards pro-athletes? Case in point, the Kansas City Police released the video of Javon Belcher in his car hours before he murdered his girlfriend and then killed himself. The police in the video are seen approaching the car which was on and Belcher inside apparently asleep. The officers gave him plenty of opportunities to get out of the car and into the apartment he was in front of. Hours later he returned home and left his daughter orphaned. If you or I were in that car would it have been that simple? Maybe.
Regardless, most offenses could cost me a job. A DUI will cost me the right to work as a paramedic. Anywhere. Too many speeding tickets, an accident, suspicion of reckless driving and I can’t drive an ambulance. If my wife fails a drug test there are no “programs” she can go to for help while she continues to work or until her suspension is removed. She will be fired and my bet is the majority of us all would.
Not all off-field problems can be eliminated by a tougher league stance. Fines will only do so much, suspensions only put more spare time in the hands of the offenders, and drawing a line in the sand regarding expulsion from the league would be a tough line to come to. But there is no doubt that something has to be done.
The NFL is bigger, faster, and stronger than it has ever been and players are more susceptible to injury than ever before. The league needs to protect the players because frankly the players don’t really want to protect themselves yet. The players make a big play, big stop, big hit and they can expect an increase in their popularity among journalists and television media. That leads to a larger fan base which leads to a larger contract. Players know this, the NFL knows this, and the NFLPA knows this. Yet no one is standing up and trying to find real alternatives. Instead, everyone wants to blame the Commissioner for the problems at hand and that is entirely not appropriate.
The NFL offers everything from top of the line medical care, counseling, rehabilitation, education, and even a rookie symposium to educate on the pitfalls that awaits them. They spend on research to curtail injuries and test the most updated and modern safety equipment available. Yet for all the effort, the players still have an option of what pads to wear and not wear. The players themselves through the NFLPA turn down HGH testing although PED’s are problematic in the sports world.
It’s why the NFL and Roger Goodell need to take the matter into their own hands. Because years later after the players career is over and they can’t get out of bed in the morning, they will sue the NFL for loss of quality of life. The simple truth of today is that the NFL has on-field issues and off-field issues that may or may not be connected. Did former Dolphins and Cardinal WR David Boston have a reduced sentence from 4 years to 4 months after punching a woman in the face because he simply claims to have mental issues secondary to concussions suffered in the NFL? Apparently the judge believed that to be true.
Regardless of whether you like, dislike, or loathe Roger Goodell, it’s his job to do what is right for both the players, the game, and the NFL. Regardless of what the fans, the players, or the NFLPA believe. Goodell will never be liked, he doesn’t need to be. He only needs to do what’s best for the game and safety of the players, regardless of whether they like it or not.
On and off the field. If he doesn’t, the next victims won’t be family members or teammates.