NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell's Punishment Towards Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots Was Far Too Lenient

Fahad ZaidiCorrespondent INovember 30, 2007

Icon Sports MediaIn early September of 2007, the NFL fined Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots, $500,000 and ordered the Patriots to forfeit a draft pick in 2008.

The punishment was handed out after the Patriots were caught violating rules by videotaping the opposing team’s signals. In addition to this, if the Patriots fail to make the playoffs, they will be fined an extra $250,000 and forfeit their second and third round draft picks in 2008 (Battista). 

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, “does not believe that the Patriots’ owner, Robert Kraft, was aware of Belichick’s actions” (Battista).  Also, “Carl Mayer, a New York Jets season ticket holder from New Jersey, has filed a $184 million dollar class action lawsuit against Patriots coach Bill Belichick” (Allen).

Most people around the league believe that the punishment was far too lenient. Ever since Roger Goodell has been the Commissioner of the NFL, he has been known as the “Law and Order Commissioner” (Bryant).

But after this incident, that image may change.

According to Mike Allen, “Goodell’s heavy-handed, rush-to-judgment approach has been damaging to players, owners, coaches, and now the fans themselves.” Allen can support this claim simply by comparing this punishment to previous ones handed out by the Commissioner for much less severe things. Over the years, Goodell has fined, suspended, and even banned numerous players for things such as substance abuse, gambling, and their behavior on and off the field. In the summer of 2007, “Goodell suspended Wade Wilson, an assistant coach with the Cowboys, for five games for receiving and using human growth hormone” (Sandomir).

Clearly, we can see that Wade Wilson’s act was less severe then Belichick’s. Thus, in comparison, the Patriots and Bill Belichick’s punishment does not fit the crime.

According to Mike Lopresti, the amount of Super Bowl victories should now affect the commissioner’s decision when punishing the Patriots (Lopresti). Even so, there are some that think the punishment was too harsh. 

In my opinion, even though there are some people who think the NFL commissioner was too harsh, the commissioner’s decision was in fact too lenient, and was inconsistent with previous punishments.

Roger Goodell has suspended and fined players for things such as substance abuse, code of conduct violations, and their actions on and off the field. These punishments send a message to the players in the league and help Goodell obtain his hard nosed image. If we compare these punishments to how he punished the Patriots, we can clearly see that he was being far too lenient in the case of the latter. 

IconLosing a first round draft pick will not affect the Patriots, because they made a trade in the off-season with the San Francisco 49ers to obtain a first round draft pick (Battista). So we can clearly see how the loss of a draft pick is a very lenient punishment. According to Bryant: “the Patriots should be put at some disadvantage during the regular season. Goodell should suspend Belichick…ban him from the sideline, the locker room, and coaches’ meetings—and not allow him to…participate or communicate with his team for two weeks.” (Bryant).

Roger Goodell’s punishment was too soft “and Roger Goodell has no one to blame but himself” (Allen).

Roger Goodell is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the game as well. If he wanted to maintain his “Law and Order” image he should have been stricter with his punishment (Bryant). One of the main reasons why his punishment towards Belichick and the Patriots should not have been as soft is because if the punishments aren’t as severe as they should be, the fans will lose interest. As a result, the NFL will lose respect and its integrity.

The NFL is not the only sport with this type of problem. Baseball and cycling have had player controversies with steroid use. However, the MLB commissioner has done enough to send a message to the rest of the players to stop using steroids. The FIA fined McLaren $100 million dollars and banned them from the Formula One championship for violating rules and cheating.

So, we can clearly see why people in the sporting world think that the punishment given to Bill Belichick and the Patriots was far too lenient. In my opinion, the punishment does not send a strong message to the rest of the sporting world that the Commissioner is serious about protecting the NFL’s integrity.

The commissioner defended the punishment by saying that he told the team that if he became aware of more damaging information, the penalties would be raised (Sandomir). The main reason why people think that the punishment was too lenient is because in the past, Roger Goodell has severely punished players coaches and personnel for very minor things. So when a team such as the Patriots cheated against the Jets in week one of the regular season and they only got a slap in the wrist, many people around the league were outraged.

According to John Molori, the punishment was “harsh, too harsh in my opinion”. There are some people that believe that the Patriots and their head coach’s punishment should not have been this harsh. In Goodell’s defense, he did fine Bill Belichick and the Patriots the maximum amount he could have. In fact, no NFL coach has ever been fined as much as Bill Belichick for this incident.

This may be true, but most people around the league believe that Belichick should have been suspended for “cheating against a clearly inferior opponent.” (Bryant)

Works Cited

Allen, Mike. “Patriots Lawsuit: How Roger Goodell Is Destroying the NFL.” 30 Sept. 2007. 8

Nov. 2007


Battista, Judy. “Football: NFL fined Patriots and coach Bill Belichick for spying on Jets.”

14 Sept. 2007. 8 Nov 2007

Bryant, Howard. “Spying scandal tests Goodell’s law-and-order image.” 13 Sept. 2007. 9

Oct. 2007

Lopresti, Mike. “Lopresti: Pats deserve stiff punishment for cheating.” No date. 8 Nov 2007

Molori, John. “Belichick's punishment an end and a beginning; Get involved with the

McDonough Foundation online auction.”15 Sept. 2007. John Molori’s Media Blitz. 8 Nov 2007

Sandomir, Richard. “Goodell Defends Punishment of Patriots.”17 Sept. 2007. 8 Nov 2007