In the Rice saga, as well as with other disconcerting headlines from the past week, the chief target of public scorn has been the NFL’s commissioner, Roger Goodell … not to exonerate Goodell, but the reality is that no discipline to players—especially top players—happens without a coordinated effort with that player’s team. As we are seeing with several team owners allowing star players their “due process” (more on that below), owners often defer to Goodell and let him deal with their problems.

— Peter King from SI.com’s MMQB, Sept. 18, 2014

By Theodore N. Beitchman

The great untold story in sports is how Roger Goodell, a not very bright son of a former senator, rose to become the plenipotentiary of the most powerful sports organization in history.

With the exception of the English Premier League, the International Olympic Committee and FIFA (I can’t remember what it stands for but everyone says soccer is the world’s most popular sport so whoever runs it must be powerful).

Goodell earns more than $44 million as commissioner of the NFL.

Which stand for Not For Long — in other words, how much longer Goodell will keep his job.

It is a story that the mainstream media will not tell you because each and every member of the MM is bought and paid for by the NFL, of which Goodell has been a screw-up of a commissioner since 2006.

No one is more bought and more paid for than Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, who doesn’t take money, which is the typical method by which we measure corruption. He gets access that few get because he rarely utters a discouraging let alone a negative word about the NFL.

And for this Sports Illustrated, for which I worked as a senior editor in the 1980s, pays him more than $1 million a year, just a little bit more than I made.

This is especially relevant now that Goodell has come under withering scrutiny because of his latest screw-up — mishandling of the endless examples of law-breaking by NFL players.

And if you think I am being too tough on Goodell and his butt boy King, here is what Deadspin.com’s Tim Marchman thinks:

The bad thing about the corruption in NFL reporting is that there’s literally no way for a league higher-up to fuck up badly enough to be held to account by the people best positioned to do so. The good thing is that if you want to know what the NFL wants you to think, all you have to do is read what stooge reporters write. Take this line from SI.com’s Peter King, attributed to “a source with knowledge of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s mindset”:

“Roger has determined that he will be a leader in the domestic-violence space.”

A skeptical reader might question this claim. Given King’s reporting techniques, it’s quite possible that his source may not actually have any knowledge of Goodell’s mindset. Maybe he doesn’t know Goodell at all! Maybe he’s some random guy who saw a picture of Goodell looking particularly flinty-eyed and steely and just assumed he wanted to lead “in the domestic-violence space.” (What a phrase. Will Roger Goodell disrupt the player-conduct paradigm next? Is he a thought leader who’ll pivot to the criminal-justice space, too? Is Peter King’s source a TED talk?)

Whatever the case, given King’s distinguished history of uncritically passing on the league’s political line to readers, we can probably assume that this actually is a league-approved message, an idea supported by a tweet Washington Post reporter Mark Maske sent out this morning, which claims the commissioner “is said” (by … someone) to be working around the clock to solve all the problems he created.

The thing here is that it wouldn’t do the league much good to push the idea that its square-jawed leader is working at his desk deep into the night to solve one of society’s most vexing problems if there weren’t a willing audience of people who, for whatever reason, want Goodell to do something. There are writers calling for leadership; there are NFLers demanding harsh measures for players accused of abuse; one asshole is literally calling for the NFL to set up a private legal system. Once upon a time, in a different context, people like this were called what they are: useful idiots.

Let’s take a step back here. The United States and the NFL both got along fine for many decades without the league commissioner routinely suspending players for violations of a personal conduct policy. There’s in fact no need for such a policy at all; it’s nothing more than an anti-labor tool and a branding device. The NFL would like to convince you that its high officials are worthy moral arbiters; that its players are like unruly children, kept in line by the firm yet loving hand of an all-knowing father; and, above all, that it deserves to play a central and defining role in American life.

The personal conduct policy helps it do so.

In reality, of course, the NFL is a sports promotion, like WWE or the Harlem Globetrotters, nominally run by Roger Goodell, a not especially bright guy with a B.A. in economics who’s desperately flailing to restore his credibility given the widespread and well-founded belief that he’s currently engaged in a Nixonian cover-up. The counselors and researchers presently working in the domestic-violence “space” are not closing their eyes, clasping their hands, and silently saying, “Thank you” upon hearing of this jackass’s bold exertions on their behalf. Domestic-violence victims will not benefit if this jackass is given power over a new private pseudo-judiciary. Peter King is wrong when he says that “America needs to hear from” this jackass.

By all means, the NFL deserves harsh criticism for its ineptitude and especially its hypocrisy; if it is going to be in the business of regulating its players’ personal conduct at all, the absolute least it can do is treat domestic violence and child abuse as seriously as it does the harmless use of recreational drugs.

But it’s worth bearing in mind that the NFL should not be in that business, that a corrupt moron like Roger Goodell “getting tough” on random players is not a substitute for fixing a fundamentally broken criminal-justice system, and that as one of the principal targets of anyone looking to lead a moral campaign against misogyny and violence in American life, this is an area in which the NFL not only can’t lead, but shouldn’t try.


At least I didn’t call Goodell a corrupt moron.

He’s not corrupt.

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