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The Channels

The recent collapse of the NFL: What you do and do not know

The Channels Opinion Pages | SPORTS COLUMN
Chloe Buckingham
Photo Illustration

Has the NFL had a worse start to a season? Certainly not in my short lifetime.

It seems like every week, another story comes out involving an NFL player and negative allegations. The League has seen 68 arrests since the New Year. And since the first football was tee’d up and kicked off in the preseason, there have been 33 player suspensions handed out.

But most notably, three running backs have caused the most discussion ranging from the middle of summer, all the way to the past week.

  • July 24: Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens was suspended two games by the NFL for Domestic Assault
  • September 12: Adrian Peterson was arrested for reckless or negligent injury to a child.
  • September 17: Jonathan Dwyer was arrested on aggravated assault charges including one to a minor

So the man who shook their hands as soon as their name was called out in the NFL draft is now shaking his head.

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Where Goodell started to crumble

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s role is to “protect the shield” of the NFL. The behavior that results in the fines he hands out for violations of the league’s conduct policy range from tweeting offensive remarks, to not speaking with the media, to getting in trouble with law enforcement.

These fines are not to make himself or anyone in the NFL offices richer (we would like to assume); but instead to “protect the NFL’s ‘image.’”

In order to keep the integrity of the League that Goodell values so much— intact, he has the duty to make sure the league he oversees is one that the fans admire and our kids look up to.

Which is why he suspended Browns Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon for failing a drug test, which came up positive for marijuana. Smoking weed won’t shave time off your 40-yard-dash, nor will it give you more endurance on the field.

But it damages the NFL’s image.

The sentence was a 16-game suspension. Many compared this to the two-game suspension handed to Rice (which came 34 days before Gordon’s), and viewed it as unfair to the All Pro. After all, smoking weed is legal in two states— and far more accepted than assaulting a spouse.

So instantly, the reaction by the fans was that Goodell viewed smoking pot as a worse violation than domestic violence.

But it’s not that simple. Previously, the substance abuse policy was very straight forward stating that all first-time violations of the drug policy resulted in a fine. Second resulted in at least a four-game suspension without pay, and third time was a 16-game suspension.

This is Gordon’s third violation.

However, League rules at the time regarding domestic violence were not so black and white. It ultimately became a judgment call by the Commissioner.

But now, it isn’t so much Goodell— but the Leagues policies that are out of whack.


Where is the NFL’s priority list?

Arguably the league’s biggest news since Michael Vick’s Dog fighting conviction in 2007— the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal— has brought the integrity of the NFL into news headlines all around the world.

Earlier this season, Goodell suspended Washington Redskins safety Brandon Mariweather two games for an illegal hit in the Redskins preseason game. Now remember, this is the same punishment first handed out to Rice after word got out that Rice had domestically abused his then fiancé Janay Palmer.

So essentially, Goodell gave out the same punishment to two NFL players: One player hit a 6’0, 205 lb. man with a helmet and shoulder pads. Another man hit a defenseless woman in a casino elevator.

As long as the word “hitting” is involved, the punishment seems to be, well… consistent.

After TMZ released the video of Rice’s domestic violence incident to the internet world, the league suspended Rice again…. for the same incident. This time, it was a move to protect that shield of theirs, and make them look like the good guys (once everyone saw the severity of the video), finally dishing out the ‘correct’ punishment.

Except now the NFL looked even worse.

We cannot comment on how you obtained the footage.

— Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner

What did the NFL think happened in that elevator? Reports from stated that Goodell insisted that the NFL did “everything in its power” to obtain the Ray Rice elevator video, but were unsuccessful.

So the NFL is essentially trying to say, that they— one of the most well respected front offices in the world with some of the highest educated individuals in the current American working class— could not obtain a casino elevator video.

But that did not match up with other sources.

A TMZ consultant was present at Roger Goodell’s press conference Friday afternoon. He went on record saying it only took one phone call to the casino to obtain the video.

“How did your high qualified staff not obtain the video?” asked TMZ

“We cannot comment on how you obtained the footage,” Goodell responded.


When was the video really seen by the NFL?

“According to the AP (Associated Press), a law enforcement official sent a copy of the Ray Rice tape to an NFL executive in April,” stated CBS sports.

“The AP was given access to a 12-second voicemail from April 9 that confirmed the video arrived at NFL headquarters,” said CBS “In that voicemail a female gives the implication that she watched the video, ‘You’re right, it’s terrible,’ she says.’”

A report from CBS quoted a spokesperson from the office of the New Jersey Attorney General seeming to “refute Goodell’s statement”. The same spokesperson said it would have been illegal for the prosecutor’s office – not the casino – to provide the video.

From TMZ:

“Paul Loriquet, the director of communications for the New Jersey Attorney General, tells TMZ bluntly, “No, it’s not illegal.”

TMZ also reported, “To be clear … our question was very specific: ‘Is it illegal for the casino to show or provide this material to a private entity in an ongoing investigation.’ His answer, ‘No, it’s not illegal.'”


Now what?

So two things seem to have happened. Either Goodell saw the tape given to the NFL, and handed out a mere two-game suspension, never thinking the video would be seen by the public. Or, he had the opportunity and the resources to see the videotape footage, but did not elect to watch the video. Both of which, should result in the termination of the Commissioner.

We may never know exactly what happened and who saw what. Most likely the Commissioner will keep his job. But there’s no denying Goodell will wish to have the elevator tape destroyed and forgotten.

Almost like the Patriots “spygate” tapes he destroyed in 2007…

Talk about Integrity.


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