Apologies right off the bat to readers of my blog who 1) aren’t sports fans, and/or 2) don’t like reading rants. This post has both so feel free to click the X and tune me out, but I have to get this off my chest.
I am a huge sports fan, and one of my favorite spectator sports is NFL football. We are diehard Seattle Seahawks fans in my house, but we watch football all day Sunday, and on Monday and Thursday nights, too, Seahawks or no. We are not unusual, nor is the fact that I am a female football fan. The NFL attracts millions of female fans.
The NFL is a behemoth organization, a group of super-rich sports team owners who willingly give a CEO overarching responsibility for the organization. They call him The Commissioner. The NFL commissioner has an unbelievable amount of both power and responsibility. There is one particular aspect of the commissioner’s job that is unique in the world of business: he is employed by the team owners, but he has the ability to punish them, either by punishing their players (thus harming the team’s ability to win) or by directly punishing an owner himself.
Why would the commissioner do so? Well, because there are behavioral “standards” and “rules” when you’re in one of the most prestigious clubs in the world. The NFL is a club. You have to earn entry. And once in, you are expected to adhere to its rules or face consequences. It all sounds reasonable on its face.
But today, the NFL failed miserably. Whether the failure is the commissioner’s, the owners’, the player’s union, I can’t say, so I’m going to lump them all together for my heaping of scorn. You see, today, NFL football player Ray Rice received a two game suspension for allegedly* knocking his girlfriend unconscious and dragging her by the arms out of an elevator in an Atlantic City hotel.
Last year, a Seahawk player received a lifetime ban from the NFL because he failed to show up for drug tests after failing at test for Marijuana use. But he failed to show up because he was busy playing football in CANADA. He wasn’t part of the NFL. He claimed not to know he still needed to take the tests, and why should he? He’s not in the CLUB. Well, rules are rules.
For getting caught smoking marijuana, a player gets “in the program.” The first offense is a warning, the second is a 4 game suspension. The fourth offense is a one year ban. This week Justin Blackmon, a talented receiver who apparently values marijuana over his NFL career, got strike 4. He’s out. Out of the league, out of his $2 million-plus dollar salary. Kicked to the curb.
The NFL also once suspended a player for the first 5 games of his career for trading jerseys and gear for tattoos WHILE IN COLLEGE.
But Ray Rice, who punched a woman and dragged her out of an elevator (not to sound repetitive, but it bears repeating), gets a 2 week suspension.
Second weed offense = 4 weeks, but physical assault leading to unconsciousness = 2 weeks?
I admit it. When I saw the news this morning, I rubbed my eyes with both fists, shook my head, blinked, and blinked again. I had to look like a flummoxed cartoon character. I couldn’t believe what I was reading was true.
Here’s all I can say…
Roger Goodell, as commissioner of the NFL you had an opportunity here and YOU SQUANDERED IT. No less than Justin Blackmon squandered a year of his career. Only in one case, it was a player foolishly gambling with his own livelihood. In your case, it was a calculated, thought-out decision. You DECIDED that a player in the National Football League can punch a woman, drag her out of an elevator and risk only a mild penalty. You DECIDED NOT to punish Ray Rice at least to the equivalent of a marijuana violation. You DECIDED NOT to draw a line in the sand, to make UNEQUIVOCALLY CLEAR that physical assault of ANYONE, but especially a woman, by an NFL player is at least as detrimental to the reputation of the league** as smoking weed. You, Roger Goodell, blew it.
I am a fan of the Seattle Seahawks. I am not a fan of any player who assaults anyone. NFL players are big and strong and fast, and unless it’s two NFL players fighting each other, it’s almost never a fair fight.
I saw a good tweet today: If Goodell’s failure bothered you, please donate to a woman’s shelter. I will. Willingly. But why should the fans of the game have to make up for Goodell’s callous disregard for the safety of women in the company of the men employed by his organization? Where is the NFL’s donation?
Answer me that Roger Goodell.
*Allegedly, because he wasn’t tried in a court. He admitted there was an incident and apologized. He was captured on security video dragging his unconscious girlfriend out of the elevator, but the punch was not witnessed.
**From Goodell’s letter to Rice: “The league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game.” Please tell me I am not the only one stunned by the irony of that statement. If Goodell’s actions don’t reflect negatively on the NFL, I don’t know what does.