The sharp Knives are Out for Goodell But He is Likely to Remain Commissioner
But just like that, the whole narrative seems to have changed when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave Ray Rice a slap on the wrist for knocking out his then fiancee. It was a stunningly light sentence and the media backlash was swift.
But the backlash over the sentence was nothing compared to the reaction when the actual video of Rice's barbaric actions became public via TMZ. That was the accelerant that turned what seemed like a manageable public relations brushfire into a serious wildfire heading right for the NFL's front door.
You can't turn on the news today without seeing the outrage towards the NFL. Hannah Storm was in tears as she asked what the NFL stands for. And Morning Joe has been devoting big slots of time to the topic every day, welcoming guests who are calling for Goodell to be fired.
You see it on almost every site. The Drudge Report has been running several "NFL Hell" headlines, and the situation went from bad to worse with the disturbing report about Adrian Peterson's arrest for injuring his four year old son. What's next Goodell must be asking himself? Reports of the FBI investigating point shaving on one of the franchises?
Blood is in the water and the sharks--mostly in the form of media commentators and special interest groups seeking to capitalize on the situation--are circling what they perceive to be a weakened Roger Goodell. They think the shield has been damaged enough that they can take Goodell down which, end of the day, will do more for their own personal agendas than it will change the culture of the NFL.
But that seems to be the tacitly agreed upon endgame: Keep up the pressure until Goodell resigns. Once that happens, once the media takes him down, then the NFL will be allowed to get back to business. It truly resembles a media lynch mob: "Get Goodell!"
Nine times out of ten the media "gets their man" whenever there is this much pressure. I can only imagine the pressure Roger must be feeling when newspaper columnists claim, without any proof, that he is completely indifferent to domestic violence and only pretends to care about women. This despite the fact he is married and has daughters. Doesn't matter. Roger Goodell has now become public enemy number one and the media machine will not rest until he is destroyed.
In my opinion, it's a disgrace the way they are vilifying Goodell for the terrible behavior of a small number of bad actors. Yes he made a stupid decision with a two game suspension but should the man's career be ruined over it? Does the media and all those calling for Goodell's resignation hold themselves up to the same standard? Not even close.
In my opinion, Roger Goodell is a sincerely good guy who wants the NFL to be a force for good in society. If he could fill his team with nothing but choirboys I'm sure he would jump at the chance. But that is not reality.
Luckily for Roger, he is likely to survive thanks to the NFL shield that he has always sought to protect. In my opinion, he is almost certainly going to be supported by the owners until this situation blows over.
And it will.
The first thing that has to happen is that the NFL has to reverse the Vikings absolutely asinine/tin ear decision to reinstate Adrian Peterson. That was one of the dumbest PR moves the team could have done and I'm sure everyone at NFL HQ cringed when they saw the story. Even the Governor of Minnesota says Peterson should be suspended. And the fact is, he will. I would be absolutely shocked if Peterson isn't suspended for at least six games by close of business on Wednesday. I think he should be suspended for the season based upon the fact there are other reports of him abusing another of his sons.
But once that is done, once Peterson is suspended, if there are no more incidents--and you can be sure every player is going to be extra careful for the next few weeks--this story will, inevitably die down. You'll still have the media pushing it, but by mid-season the focus will be back on the field.
That's just a fact of life. The fact is, the NFL makes too much money to be pressured into doing anything it does not want to do.
As I think about the current pressure being brought against Goodell, it reminds me of theMasters when they refused to let in female members. Advertisers began to pull out, pressure built and the Masters announced they would simply go it alone with no advertisers. CBS, as you may recall, continued to broadcast the Masters, just like it will continue to broadcast the NFL.
Augusta eventually did the right thing and admitted female members. But it was on their terms. The NFL is going to do the right thing but it will also be on their terms--under the leadership of Roger Goodell.
The fact of the matter is there is no real way to pressure the NFL to offer up Goodell as a sacrifice for the media machine because there is no way that a large percentage (even a meaningful percentage) of fans will boycott. Roger Goodell has done too good of a job building up and strengthening the shield.
Ironically the same media trying to take down Goodell is the same media that made the NFL big enough that it can withstand this current attack and protect its Commissioner. 2014 is starting out as a bad year for the NFL, but the even so, the "shield" is almost impenetrable and there should be no doubt that it will be strong enough to protect Goodell in this crisis.
R.C. O'Leary is the author of Hallways in the Night, a legal thriller in which the worlds of professional sports, media and the criminal justice