Lazy Saturday Reads: Will Roger Goodell’s Handling of #DeflateGate Be the Final Straw for NFL Owners? And Other News . . .Posted: January 31, 2015
I’m so tired of being cold. The Boston area tends to get a lot of snow–especially late in winter–but we rarely experience the frigid temperatures we’ve had this year. We usually get a lot of sun and temperatures in the 20-30+ range in the winter months. This year we have had many gloomy days in the teens and nighttime temperature in the single numbers. My house isn’t particularly well-insulated, and my furnace isn’t powerful enough to keep the house at 70 degrees when it’s that cold. Fortunately we enter February tomorrow and spring is on the way, even though it doesn’t feel like it yet.
On mornings like this one, I wish I could drape myself over a radiator and sleep for 16 hours a day like a cat. Honestly, I have to admit I’ve been taking a lot of catnaps lately to deal with a cold that isn’t all that bad but just keeps hanging on. Between that and following the buildup to the Super Bowl, I’ve been kind of ignoring politics for the time being. The 2016 race will begin to heat up soon enough, and the antics of the GOP Congress are just too depressing for me to want to know the gory details.
I haven’t written anything yet about the recent attacks on my beloved New England Patriots, but since it’s the Saturday before the Super Bowl, I’m going to write a little about it today.
I understand that most people around the country hate the Pats for the same reasons everyone hated the Yankees when I was a kid. They always seemed to be winning, and we got so sick of having to watch them in the World Series. Not to mention that their fans were unbearably arrogant and obnoxious. Growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, I learned to root for the underdog.
At the beginning of the football season this year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in hot water over the mild 2-game suspension he handed out to Ray Rice after the league learned that the Baltimore Ravens running back had punched his then-girlfriend Janay Palmer in the face in a Las Vegas elevator in February 2014, knocking her unconscious. Rice was arrested and charged with aggravated assault.
After video surfaced of the incident, Goodell turned around and suspended Rice indefinitely (this arbitrary decision was later overturned). After that the media began calling attention to other cases of domestic violence by NFL players, and many people called for Goodell to be fired. At the time, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was one of the few team owners to publicly support the commissioner. Goodell survived and the controversy died down temporarily.
Now Goodell has made an enemy of Kraft. Will a silly controversy about deflated footballs lead to Goodell’s final downfall? I’m not going to get into the details of “Deflate Gate,” but I’ve followed the story closely, and at this point I’m convinced that whole thing is ridiculous.
At first I was stunned by the accusations and then I began to believe that the Patriots must have done something wrong. But over time, I’ve concluded that the whole thing was a tempest in a teapot, and I’ve reached the point where I’m embracing the hatred and laughing about the whole thing.
I’m not a huge fan of the Super Bowl, but to me it seems stupid that this year’s game has been overshadowed by this ludicrous controversy. I think it’s time for Roger Goodell to go, and now that he has lost the support of one of the NFL’s most powerful owners–and one of Goodell’s bosses–it might actually happen. As former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue told CQ Magazine, Goodell doesn’t seem to understand the value of treating the players like adults and working for peace and understanding rather than enraging everyone.
Tagliabue also said that Goodell hasn’t spoken to him since the former commissioner vacated Goodell’s ridiculously over-the-top punishment of another winning team–the New Orleans Saints–for supposedly paying bounties to players for big hits during games in 2011. This practice was common around the league and none of the hits by Saints players had lead to serious injuries. Tagliabue felt that it was unfair to penalize one team so harshly for behavior that was widely tolerated around the league, and he overturned the punishment after Goodell asked him to review the case.
Why would the NFL commissioner want to tear down winning teams? It doesn’t make sense unless you understand that the NFL doesn’t like dynasties. Here’s a piece from the Bleacher Report from 2009 about another scandal involving the New England Patriots.
Excellence isn’t against NFL rules—at least not yet.
But, the league punishes success anyway.
They punish success to achieve parity among the teams. In theory, when more teams have a chance to win it all, the ratings are higher. That means more advertising dollars for the networks and bigger TV contracts for the league.
Twelve games into the season and your team has four wins and eight losses?
They still have a chance, just like the 2008 Chargers.
Current rules allow scenarios where nine win teams make the playoffs and go to Super Bowls, while 11 win teams miss the playoffs….
They don’t want dominant teams. They want mediocrity. They don’t want dynasties.
They want to spread the wealth.
So, the league punishes successful teams, hoping to weaken them, and rewards bad teams, hoping to strengthen them.
Read the rest of that article to learn why the Patriots were punished with a trumped-up scandal over something every other team was doing.
So far the strategy has worked with the Saints, but maybe they can still turn it around. I hope so. After “spygate,” the Patriots refused to lie down and die. They just kept winning, and Goodell and some other team owners and coaches resented it. I think Goodell’s ham-handed strategy for promoting parity is bullshit. There have to be other ways of doing it than ruining the NFL’s most important event–the Super Bowl–and humiliating players and coaches who have worked their asses off to achieve excellence.
Rhode Island sportswriter Tom E. Curran has followed the Patriots since the late 1990s. At the beginning of “deflategate,” he thought that the Pats had cheated, but he gradually learned that the NFL had zero evidence to show any wrongdoing by the team; and yesterday after Roger Goodell gave his “state of the NFL” speech, Curran wrote a scathing response.
Congrats, Roger. You successfully debased your marquee event.
You allowed one of your marquee franchises to be devalued.
You allowed the legacies of a Hall of Fame quarterback and coach to be battered.
You watched with disinterest as one of the league’s visionary owners and most influential proponents had his influence siphoned and his investment diminished.
Your NFL has bookended the 2014 season with two perfect embarrassments.
First, the wink, wink “investigation” into Ray Rice punching his fiancee into unconsciousness which exploded on the Monday morning after the season openers.
Now, a vindictive, self-important, spare-no-expense investigation into footballs being less than 12.5 PSI during the AFC Championship.
And there you were Friday, Roger, on a rainy morning in Phoenix – two days before the best two teams in the NFL will play a game that’s been terribly overshadowed – puffing out your chest.
Read about Curran’s evolution on the deflategate issue at the link.
Here’s his conclusion:
The NFL had to know it had no numbers written down before Monday dawned. But the leaks of leaky balls flowed. The NFL had a choice. Step up and say, “Look, this is standard stuff, we frequently do a review of procedures and we are not alleging any wrongdoing by anyone. We just have to make sure our footballs aren’t defective.” Or do nothing and let the whisper campaign turn into a full-throated, planetary roar that the Patriots are cheaters.
The NFL chose the latter.
And everybody’s paying for it.
The league itself. The players. The coaches. The fans.
The revenue streams keep cascading and because of that, Goodell’s 32 bosses can go to sleep every night knowing that, no matter how bad it gets, it will never slow to a trickle.
Still, he’s got to be congratulated for finding a way to let the Super Bowl be overshadowed. Seemed impossible.
The only thing that can save the week now will be the game itself. I think it will.
What will save the reputation of Roger Goodell? Nothing.
We’ll find out about the game tomorrow night. Goodell may stick around for a little while, but I think his goose is cooked.
I’ll end this diatribe with a hilarious video that finally dissolved all my resentment over what has happened over the past two weeks of deflate gate hype.
Now that I’ve bored you stiff with my obnoxious Boston fan routine, here are some other stories you may find interesting.
Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone: While Deflategate and Chaitgate Rage, America Quietly Robs Its Elderly.
Reihan Salam at Slate: The Upper Middle Class Is Ruining America. And I want it to stop.
Michael Moore on Facebook: The Day Clint Eastwood Said He Would “Kill” Me, 10 Years Ago This Week.
Michael Schiavo at Politico: Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’.
Talking Points Memo: Jeb Bush’s Former Classmates Say He Was A Hash-Smoking Bully.
Nina Burleigh at Newsweek: What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women.
Talking Points Memo: The Sounds of Solidarity: Remembering Pete Seeger at Selma.
From The New Yorker, April 10, 1965: Letter from Selma, by Renata Adler.
RedOrbit via Raw Story: ‘Horrific’ pre-historic shark makes a rare appearance in Australian waters.
Georg Gray: Rare Historic Photos You’ll Never Forget.
What else is happening? Let us know in the comment thread and have a fabulous Super Bowl weekend!
I’m going to devote this post to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s domestic violence crisis.
Yesterday NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell emerged from wherever he was hiding for the past ten days and gave a press conference in which he once again tried to paper over his awful handling of domestic violence charges against Ray Rice and a number of other NFL players.
He really shouldn’t have bothered. The “press conference,” in which Goodell announced that he’s setting up a series of committees to formulate a new league policy on domestic violence in time for the Super Bowl, and then dodged pointed questions from the media, was bad enough; but shortly thereafter, ESPN Outside the Lines published a story that showed both Goodell and Baltimore Ravens ownership to be liars. The truth is, the Ravens knew about the video footage from inside the elevator not long after Rice hit Janay Palmer with a closed fist and caused her to lose consciousness.
Rice case: purposeful misdirection by team, scant investigation by NFL, by Don Van Natta Jr. and Kevin Van Valkenburg.
Just hours after running back Ray Rice knocked out his then-fiancée with a left hook at the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the Baltimore Ravens’ director of security, Darren Sanders, reached an Atlantic City police officer by phone. While watching surveillance video — shot from inside the elevator where Rice’s punch knocked his fiancée unconscious — the officer, who told Sanders he just happened to be a Ravens fan, described in detail to Sanders what he was seeing.
Sanders quickly relayed the damning video’s play-by-play to team executives in Baltimore, unknowingly starting a seven-month odyssey that has mushroomed into the biggest crisis confronting a commissioner in the NFL’s 94-year history.
“Outside the Lines” interviewed more than 20 sources over the past 11 days — team officials, current and former league officials, NFL Players Association representatives and associates, advisers and friends of Rice — and found a pattern of misinformation and misdirection employed by the Ravens and the NFL since that February night.
After the Feb. 15 incident in the casino elevator, Ravens executives — in particular owner Steve Bisciotti, president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome — began extensive public and private campaigns pushing for leniency for Rice on several fronts: from the judicial system in Atlantic County, where Rice faced assault charges, to commissioner Goodell, who ultimately would decide the number of games Rice would be suspended from this fall, to within their own building, where some were arguing immediately after the incident that Rice should be released.
The Ravens also consulted frequently with Rice’s Philadelphia defense attorney, Michael J. Diamondstein, who in early April had obtained a copy of the inside-elevator video and told Cass: “It’s f—ing horrible.” Cass did not request a copy of the video from Diamondstein but instead began urging Rice’s legal team to get Rice accepted into a pretrial intervention program after being told some of the program’s benefits. Among them: It would keep the inside-elevator video from becoming public.
For its part, the NFL — which in other player discipline cases has been able to obtain information that’s been sealed by court order — took an uncharacteristically passive approach when it came to gathering evidence, opening itself up to widespread criticism, allegations of inconsistent approaches to player discipline and questions about whether Goodell gave Rice — the corporate face of the Baltimore franchise — a light punishment as a favor to his good friend Bisciotti. Four sources said Ravens executives, including Bisciotti, Cass and Newsome, urged Goodell and other league executives to give Rice no more than a two-game suspension, and that’s what Goodell did on July 24.
It’s a long article that shows Ravens coach John Harbaugh in a surprisingly positive light–he reportedly wanted to cut Rice and two other players who had been arrested in the off-season, but owner Steven Bisciotti overruled him. It’s possible that this means the information in the piece came from sources friendly to Harbaugh, and the team claims there are a number of problems with the article. But at this point, who is going to believe either the team or Roger Goodell over ESPN’s sources–especially when they are postponing stating any specifics until next week? Do they need a few days to dream up a response?
The ESPN article also portrays Ray Rice as extremely remorseful about having hit Janay, and suggests that Steve Biscotti tried to bribe Rice to stay silent about what actually happened. From Deadspin:
Once the video became public, Bisciotti claimed that the team had not seen the tape until it was released by TMZ, suggesting that the account Rice had given him was somehow at odds with the elevator footage. This is also Goodell’s claim, though OTL has four sources saying that Rice told the truth in his meeting with the commissioner. The Ravens released Rice on Sept. 8 and then, according to ESPN, immediately offered an olive branch.
Minutes later, Rice’s phone buzzed. He could scarcely believe what he was looking at— back-to-back text messages from Bisciotti. Rice read them aloud so everyone in the room could hear them:
Hey Ray, just want to let you know, we loved you as a player, it was great having you here. Hopefully all these things are going to die down. I wish the best for you and Janay.
When you’re done with football, I’d like you to know you have a job waiting for you with the Ravens helping young guys getting acclimated to the league.
A few days later, after thinking about it more, Rice told friends he believed Bisciotti was suggesting that, as long as he kept quiet and stuck to the story that he had misled team officials and Goodell about what had happened in the elevator, the Ravens would take care of him down the road. He felt incredibly insulted.
For all the nonsense, though, something seismic may be happening in the fallout here … primed by the inadvertent contribution of the NFL, and not only because Goodell promised harsher punishment for “totally unacceptable” behavior — domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, misuse of firearms, and illegal use of alcohol and drugs.
Because its initial response to Rice was so warped — a paltry two-game suspension — the rumbling started with the release of the second Rice video. And it began to accelerate in the void of NFL leadership between then and now, especially as Adrian Peterson faces child-abuse charges for “whooping” his 4-year-old son with a “switch” and domestic-abuse allegations against others came to light.
If nature abhors a vacuum, so do human beings … who have way more ways to fill it up in the era of social media.
Between the media attention and outrage across the nation, including from heavyweight sponsors such as Anheuser-Busch and Procter & Gamble (which on Friday pulled out of a planned Breast Cancer Awareness event for October), the topic had been bubbling at a critical mass by the time Goodell finally spoke.
That dynamic made for a pivotal moment.
“I think this truly has been a tipping point in how the nation looks at domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Joan Schultz, executive director of the Willow Domestic Violence Center in Lawrence. “We’re starting to take it out of (being) the victim’s fault.
“And men are starting to stand up and say, ‘No,’ and that’s what I’ve always thought it was going to take: ‘No, this is not right. … We’re silent no more.’
A couple more reactions . . .
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has asked his staff for details about the U.S. military’s relationships with the National Football League in the wake of the scandal over how the league is handling domestic-abuse allegations against players, CNN reported Friday.
The Pentagon is increasingly sensitive to any suggestion it is supporting a major sports organization that is perceived to tolerate domestic violence….
The military has a zero-¬tolerance policy in the ranks for domestic abuse, but it also has a decades-long, high-profile relationship with the NFL. Any Pentagon action to cut back support for the NFL would be the most direct involvement by the Obama administration yet in the scandal.
What involvement does the military have with the NFL?
The Army alone spends $10 million a year on advertising during NFL games. Games are also broadcast by the Armed Forces Network to troops deployed overseas.
Military support for the NFL games includes providing ceremonial units at games for colors ceremonies; military personnel singing the national anthem, and other units providing drill teams or flyovers. Military personnel, including wounded warriors, often appear at NFL events honoring those who serve, CNN noted.
The Army and the NFL also have a agreement to share information and resources to better understand traumatic brain injury, which is a major medical issue for wounded troops and football players. They are working together on awareness of TBI as well as research into treatment. The military has been sharing some of the lessons learned on TBI from the last 13 years of war.
Interesting. Along with Proctor & Gamble pulling out of the NFL’s breast cancer campaign, this could have a real influence.
So the man who was once more than happy to pose on the cover of Time magazine as “The Enforcer” now talks about initiatives and the women he has hired and the committees he now needs to deal with domestic violence and all the rest of it in the National Football League. He says that a conduct committee will be in place by the Super Bowl, and acted as if we should give him the game ball for that.
“Our standards . . . must be clear, consistent and current,” Goodell said at one point, and you wondered why in the hell they already weren’t in the most powerful and profitable league in this country, why it took some grainy elevator video to slap Goodell and his owners upside their own thick heads.
You watched Goodell on Friday, watched him be as contrite as all the players he’s taken to the woodshed without impunity over his years as the NFL commissioner, and wondered why Adam Silver, the new NBA commissioner, a rookie commissioner, didn’t need to form committees when he kicked Donald Sterling, one of his owners, right out of his sport.
When Major League Baseball’s Bud Selig and Rob Manfred wanted to suspend a dozen guys last year, and drop a richly deserved hammer on a drug cheat like Alex Rodriguez, they didn’t talk about a conduct committee or wait around for law enforcement to throw the first punch against Anthony Bosch, drug pusher to the stars. They went right after Bosch with a lawsuit for interference and you know what happened in that moment? They became real enforcers, not people simply posing that way.
According to Lupica, Goodell is now “the weakest commissioner in professional sports.”
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and comments on any topic in the comment thread, and have a fabulous weekend!