The Puppet Master: Roger Goodell

As Commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell has had his fair share of controversy to deal with. Photo Courtesy: Anthony Quintano
As Commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell has had his fair share of controversy to deal with.
Photo Courtesy: Anthony Quintano

By Lance Rinker

Let’s just get this out of the way now.

Roger Goodell has no place as commissioner of the National Football League. What’s come to light about the man determined to “Protect the Shield” is that he is nothing more than an arrogant, shit-for-brains, cover-up con artist. He’s playing a shell game with fans and players that only the NFL owners can win.

With that said, he’s also not going anywhere.

The façade he had built up to show everyone he was the right man for the job back in 2006 was one of trust, a willingness to keep players in line, and above all else – protect the NFL’s reputation. That’s all come crashing down as fans and owners realize just who he is now, underneath all the big talk and finely pressed suits.

It wasn’t until a violent assault was caught on camera that Goodell and the NFL decided it was time to take domestic violence seriously. In a way, I guess we have Ray and Janay Rice to thank for that. Security footage from an Atlantic City casino showed the two arguing and then Ray Rice essentially sucker-punching his then fiancé in the face – knocking her out cold and then haphazardly trying to drag her body around the elevator.

This event is what began the long fall from atop his mountain for Goodell. The punishment was bungled from the get-go; at first not being tough enough at two games, and then saying he was too lenient and decided to suspend Rice indefinitely.

To make matters worse, a law enforcement official in New Jersey sent the video showing Ray Rice punching Janay months before the NFL even acknowledged there was an issue. According to the Associated Press, audio from a 12-second voicemail on April 9, left by a person in the NFL’s office, confirms the receipt of the video and says, “You’re right. It’s terrible.”

That report is just one in a long line of items that contradicts Goodell’s claim that nobody at the NFL had seen the video before TMZ made it public.

At the time, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said: “We have no knowledge of this. We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday. We will look into it.”

Goodell was expected by some players, fans, and media pundits to be on his way out as commissioner as a result of this web of lies. Trying to sweep a serious societal issue under the rug just seemed like another day at the office for Goodell and owners who supported him.

More than 60 players have been arrested for domestic violence during Goodell’s tenure. The first 55 cases not caught on video were simply swept under the rug by Goodell and the league. Goodell was happy to look the other way because the PR Master in him knew this could be a slippery slope for the league to have to address and deal with responsibly.

Ray and Janay Rice changed all that.

Fast forward to 2015 and Goodell’s fight with the New England Patriots and Tom Brady over possibly deflated footballs has truly done him in. All because he refused to accept science as fact and, of course, ignorance of Ideal Gas Law being a cause for the underinflated footballs.

Sure, there were plenty of suspicious things that took place with the footballs that night, enough to warrant looking and enough to still wonder what exactly happened. But there was no real evidence to prove guilt. Yet the NFL and Goodell still charged full steam ahead like Wile E. Coyote going after The Road Runner.

As a result of Goodell wanting to use weak evidence, a bungled investigation and an ‘official’ report that was tampered with, suppressing a witness, and other bully tactics in an attempt to hurt Tom Brady – the NFL now is considering whether his role as judge, jury, and executioner should be revised.

While the NFL may actually work with the NFL Players Association on implementing a more just punishment system, league owners won’t be replacing the man at the top. Not only is he the ultimate punching bag to take the blame for anything that goes wrong, but he’s also done something no commissioner before him has done.

In 2006 when Goodell first took over the job as commissioner from Paul Tagliabue, there was discord among the owners. Many were unhappy that not all of their needs or concerns were being addressed. The owners also collectively felt they were getting the raw end of the collective bargaining agreement, complaining nonstop about the labor deal.

NFL ownership was fractured between groups consisting of old owners and new ones, big markets vs. small markets, and of course those who supported Tagliabue and those who wanted a more independent NFL commissioner.

Goodell did battle with the NFLPA on behalf of the owners and won, while also uniting all 32 owners over the same core issues. This may seem like some small thing but it’s something that carries significant weight with the owners. They are each making more money than before under Goodell’s direction.

Goodell isn’t going anywhere, even though he should, because he delivered to NFL owners exactly what they wanted – higher profits and lower labor costs especially for rookies – and teams now have the ability to recoup bonus money for players who breach their contracts.

Though the thought of someone like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice taking over for Goodell as the NFL’s new commissioner, and breaking up the good ole’ boys network, it simply isn’t happening.

He may lose some autonomy as far as divvying out punishments to players and also hearing their appeals, but that’s small potatoes compared to why he’s really there. And those small potatoes are mere distractions.