Why Does Everyone Hate Roger Goodell?

Why Does Everyone Hate Roger Goodell?

The NFL commissioner's actions are finally being called into question
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Over the past few months, it has been difficult to make it an entire day without reading an article on Roger Goodell’s tumultuous tenure as NFL commissioner. However, many fans are content just to follow what happens on the field and nothing else. In order to fully grasp the criticism of Goodell’s handling of Deflategate, we have to look at his mishandling of all the previous NFL scandals.

Shortly after becoming commissioner, Goodell was dedicated to cleaning up the league’s image. This was inspired by the 2006 offseason during which nine Cincinnati Bengals players were arrested. This led to the introduction of the substance abuse policy and the player conduct policy, which allowed the league to dispense whatever punishments they felt were appropriate, regardless of an actual conviction of a crime. Goodell said of the player conduct policy, "It is important that the NFL be represented consistently by outstanding people as well as great football players, coaches, and staff. We hold ourselves to higher standards of responsible conduct because of what it means to be part of the National Football League”. Unfortunately, Goodell took this to mean evidence of actual wrongdoing was optional. If you made the league look bad you were getting punished.

These punishments were often were often incredibly strict to act as a deterrent from future infractions. The severity of these punishments however, rarely matched the severity of the crime. Donte Stallworth was suspended for the entirety of the 2009 season after being convicted of DUI manslaughter. Josh Gordon was also suspended an entire season but for violating the substance abuse program. For arguments sake, let’s just agree with Goodell’s ridiculous take that manslaughter and recreational drug use are on the same level. That would raise the question as to why Jim Irsay's arrest in March for a number of drug charges took six months and public outrage for the NFL to hand out a suspension. In short, every decision Goodell makes is fueled by his greed, hypocrisy and arrogance.

The first event, and one of the many “gate” scandals, to tarnish the Goodell legacy was Spygate. As a reminder, Spygate involved the New England Patriots videotaping the practices of their opponents to gain a competitive advantage. Four days after the allegations, Goodell handed out a $750,000 fine and the loss of a draft pick. Many commended the commissioner for being so swift and strict with levying a punishment against one of the league’s most popular franchises. However, it was later discovered the NFL did not receive the tapes in question until days after the fine was announced. This means Goodell actually handed out a punishment without ever reviewing the key pieces of evidence.

To make matters worse, he then ordered that the tapes be destroyed on sight because the investigation was already over. When allegations later arose that the Patriots may have videotaped the St. Louis Rams to gain an advantage in the Super Bowl, Goodell assured everyone that the tapes were not of the Rams, despite never having actually seen them himself. Of course we should just take Goodell’s word that the Super Bowl wasn’t influenced by a team cheating. He would have no reason to lie about the outcome of the biggest game of the year being affected by a cheating organization led by his very close friend, Bob Kraft. In short, Goodell handed out punishments without a proper investigation and then destroyed evidence to cover it up.

The next “gate” to plague the NFL was the New Orleans Saints’ Bountygate scandal. This scandal occurred in 2012 and involved Saints players and coaches creating a monetary incentive program for injuring opposing players. Goodell, as he did with Spygate, tried to get out in front of the situation by issuing penalties immediately. This time, he issued some of the strictest suspensions in NFL history: two season-long suspensions for player Jonathan Vilma and Coach Sean Payton, and an indefinite suspension for defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams.

In yet another effort to show his supposed control and save face for the league, Goodell ignored evidence and unilaterally made a decision without due process. Several lawsuits and criticism from both the players and the media resulted in former NFL commissioner, Paul Tagliabue stepping in as an independent arbitrator. After hearing the appeal, he decided to vacate the suspensions of all four players involved. Once more, Goodell handed out punishments without a proper investigation and eventually created more negative publicity than the original scandal.

Lastly, we have the Ray Rice scandal--the smoking gun, as it were. The NFL, and mostly Goodell’s, handling of this situation went as poorly as possible. For anyone who has successfully repressed the memories of this awful situation, let's recap them: security camera footage was released showing the Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancé off a casino elevator. Ray Rice met with the commissioner and, after conducting what the NFL deemed an “investigation,” was suspended for two games. Remember that this is the same league that imposes season long suspensions for marijuana use, yet apparently feels domestic violence deserves a fraction of that.

Following the suspension, video footage from inside the elevator revealed what anyone with common sense already knew, Rice assaulted his fiancé and was the reason she was unconscious to begin with. There are already countless articles proving that there is no way the NFL did not see this footage prior to issuing Rice's "punishment." Regardless, after public outrage like the NFL had never seen before, Goodell issued Rice an indefinite suspension, somehow believing it was legal to punish someone twice for the same crime. An appeal found that as no new evidence had been presented, the NFL could not suspended Rice again and the suspension was overturned. And for a third time, Goodell handed out punishments without a proper investigation and eventually generated more negative publicity than the original scandal itself.

Finally, we come to present day, where the sports media is being dominated by PSI levels and destroyed cell phones. Deflategate, for those who have been fortunate to avoid the bombardment of stories the past few months, involves the New England Patriots allegedly deflating footballs to gain a competitive advantage. The NFL leaked, what has now been proven to be, false information about the PSI levels of the balls and suspended Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady. Brady filed an appeal that was heard by, guess who, Roger Goodell. Yes, you read that correctly.

Goodell named himself the arbitrator to hear an appeal on a suspension that he issued--almost as if he wants to flaunt his unbridled power. The suspension was upheld and now Brady has filed a lawsuit against the NFL. While the lawsuit is still ongoing, it has been determined that the NFL does not and has never had any evidence of Brady’s involvement with the possible deflation of the footballs. However, the two sides continue to argue over the semantics of whether Brady interfered with the investigation. To recap, Goodell handed out punishments without a proper investigation, then named himself the impartial arbitrator, upheld his original decision and has made the league a complete laughingstock.

Suffice it to say, there are heaps of reasons for Goodell's constant crucifixion in the media. By attempting to make examples out of single players, he consistently leaves the league in a vulnerable position. He talks out of two sides of his mouth, feigning concern for players' safety regarding substance abuse, yet he's done nothing about the rampant concussion issues. The league can only withstand destructive leadership for so long, especially with the NBA and MLB electing progressive, forward thinking commissioners. The NFL is the country's most popular sport by a wide margin, but it's hard to believe Roger Goodell will be around to much longer to enjoy its success.

Cover Image Credit: David Goldman/AP Photo

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.
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I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn’t sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It’s obvious your calling wasn’t coaching and you weren’t meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn’t have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn’t your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that’s how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “it's not what you say, its how you say it.”

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won’t even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don’t hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That’s the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she’s the reason I continued to play.”

I don’t blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn’t working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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Drum Corps And Overcoming Myself

Sometimes, you truly are your own worst enemy.

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Late afternoons in Millbrook, Alabama were terrible. I learned that very quickly. The heat, the bugs, and the humidity were such a terrible mix. Dense grass and burnt, blistered hands made for grueling rehearsals. Surely through all this suffering I would be able to conquer anything, it seemed.

I was wrong. The biggest obstacle I'd ever face turned out, as cliché as it sounds, to be me.

My biggest obstacle - myself.Photo by Ruth Marek

I joined Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps for the 2017 season, and my rookie year would definitely showcase the impact of these negative thoughts. We were not even a week into tour when I first "broke." I had survived all-days, but once we hit the road, it seemed that I couldn't continue. That day, the pressures were particularly immense. I had been newly promoted to the marimba line, been given only nine days to learn the full show, and now we were on tour. Competition would start that very day. Needless to say, the odds were stacked against me. The grass on the field was extremely, almost unnaturally thick, making for a hellish and painful push. I'm already a small person, and of course only being a week or so into my rookie season, I didn't have the muscles for it yet. The sun was beating down on us; the temperature came close to 100 degrees. The marimba itself - yeah, the big thing I have to push around a field all day - was actually at least twice if not three times my size. On top of it all, we were under a time limit which, if violated, resulted in a penalty for the whole corps.

I could continue on for ages about all the external factors that made my experience difficult, but I would be completely ignoring the point. Those external factors made my experience difficult, not impossible. The factors weren't the problem itself. I was the problem. I didn't believe in myself. Negative thoughts thrive in negative environments. As such, the aforementioned circumstances resulted in a copious quantity of self-doubt, self-loathing, regret, and other wonderful feelings. My own negative thinking patterns created the problem.

How does one overcome oneself? It's almost paradoxical. In retrospect, I've struggled with myself for far longer than just in drum corps, and I still struggle today. But that sweltering day, in the middle of Millbrook, Alabama, I was given something that has helped me tremendously in my fight to extinguish my negative thinking patterns. That day, in the middle of my push onto the field, my legs locked up. My thighs were screaming, and I was pretty close to doing the same if I hadn't been biting down on my lip. I was leading the whole line of front ensemble onto the field, so I had to keep going. I tried to. But I couldn't.

I couldn't do it.

I couldn't do it.

I heard my section called out from the press box: "That's two minutes already! Front ensemble has thirty seconds to get set!"

I couldn't do it.

I couldn't do it.

The pain of pushing the board mixed with the pain of the humiliation I'd caused myself and my section. I began to cry. My technician, Kirstyn (whom you may remember from my previous article), ran to my side. Tears were streaming down my face, probably leaving streaks of sunscreen washed away. I thought she'd help me push. She didn't.

All she did was stare at me. I still remember her eyes, icy blue and filled with confidence, like she was willing it with everything she had to transfer to me. I remember sobbing. At this point, I'm still pushing, but barely. She said two words to me, and those two words changed my entire life: "Keep pushing."

I'd love to say that something clicked into place. I'd love to say that those two words filled me with strength and my speed skyrocketed, bringing me and my section to our place in time. It didn't happen like that, of course, but the fact that it didn't have some magical effect on me speaks to me. It shows that overcoming oneself has always been and will always be a long process, filled with successes and failures just like any other.

More than anything, those words fill me with hope. Hope that I can get through whatever obstacle I'm facing. Those words have become a sort of mantra for me, and I am immensely glad to have received that advice. I've taken on so much more in my life than ever before thanks to the hope it brings me.

If you're ever facing an obstacle, be it yourself or otherwise, keep pushing. You'll thank yourself after the fact.

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