The NFL is an enterprise that has an estimated yearly revenue of $6 billion. The owners of the 32 franchises that make up the league are some of America's wealthiest and most prestigious captains of industry.
The Commissioner, 50-year-old Roger Goodell, who was voted to the top spot in 2006 upon Paul Tagliabue's retirement, has inherited a burgeoning business that is oozing with complicated issues, primarily an impending labor fight over the expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Goodell will have to mediate between the owners—who opted out of the CBA two years early, and the players union—who are being led by a new director, DeMaurice Smith, who has vowed to put up a valiant fight.
Other issues Goodell has had to table are the future of the beleaguered NFL Network, which has yet to find a consistent national audience due to pricing, placement, and tiering issues with several major cable carriers, and the continuance of NFL Ventures, which is the exploratory wing that is actively testing new products and markets that recently came under fire for proposing overseas Super Bowl locations.
This would be enough to make any CEO grey around the muzzle. But wait—it doesn't stop there.
There is that other minor task the commissioner must perform—disciplining the players. This, unfortunately, is the task that the media and the public will judge Goodell on.
Since Goodell took office, he's had to face quite a few dilemmas regarding player misbehavior. Thus far, he has been consistent in his decisions. He lets the legal system run its course and then takes action based upon league and union rules.
This has gone unnoticed in this society that tries defendants in the media. Goodell has shown patience in the cases of Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress, and Donte Stallworth, just to name a few. His immediate action upon a legal decision is to suspend the player indefinitely and have them go through a reinstatement process.
The reinstatement process is not just lip service, either. Many players that have had patterns of criminal activity and were suspended have applied and been accepted back into the league. Goodell meets with the player and—after a period of groveling and contrite admissions—are granted a provisional reinstatement.
Adam "Pacman" Jones, Tank Johnson, and Chris Henry are some of the players that Goodell reinstated after suspending them. It is widely agreed that he will do the same with Vick, Burress and Stallworth at some point as well.
That is what has happened until now. But the paradigm of the NFL is changing. The public is calling for harsher sentences to be administered by Goodell. They want players to be treated like common citizens and not get special treatment. The Stallworth case has infuriated many because of its lack of substantial jail time.
That is beyond Goodell's purview. His policy is to allow the courts to process the cases first. He will suspend the player without pay in the interim. Should the charges be false (so far we haven't seen that), the NFL will reinstate and compensate the player for lost wages.
Goodell is being pressured to exact more stringent penalties because the court of public opinion apparently is wiser than the courts of many municipalities. It seems that the courts are afraid to prosecute athletes at the local level for some odd reason.
The Feds never back down because they don't have to, but local and state courts have phobias when it comes to prosecuting celebrities. That may not seem like a fair statement, but the results support it.
Goodell, in my opinion, should not compensate for the ineptitude of these local courts. That will not prove anything. The reality is that you will see an increase in lawsuits brought upon the league by players.
That is too much bad publicity. These cases give the league a bad enough black eye as it is, lawsuits would only compound the problem by drawing massive media over-coverage.
Goodell needs the hammer. He needs the authority to kick players out of the the league for good with no possibility of reinstatement.
Goodell is basically hamstrung in the penalties he can levy on players, but he can rectify the player conduct policies in the upcoming CBA. He himself will not be able to implement any forced changes in regard to player behavior, but he can ask the owners and the union to table it and then make his case.
The financials will be argued to exhaustion by both sides during the negotiations. That will be hammered out, no doubt, considering the increasing revenues. The new conduct policy must be a rider on this deal. Here's why:
Multi-billion dollar businesses such as IBM, Exxon, GE and Citibank all have conduct policies that are basically non-negotiable. Even civil service unions have strict conduct policies. The NFL, as a major American industry, must upgrade theirs as well.
Goodell is the steward of this interconnected conglomerate. He has to act like a CEO. That encompasses implementing a policy on employee conduct that includes mandatory enforcement and includes terminations—not just suspensions.
Currently, he has the power to ban a player for life, but it is an arbitrary power. The ante on his powers needs to be upped.
I say, cast that in stone. The public is clamoring for these millionaire union members to be held accountable for their actions. Give Goodell real authority to kick these scumbags to the curb once and for all.
Once a few get booted for life, you'll see more walking the straight and narrow.
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