Roger Goodell has Already Begun the Process of Changing the Culture in the NFL
In less than two weeks, since the video of Rice surfaced, there has been a sea change in the NFL's culture. Under Goodell's leadership, the NFL has moved towards a zero tolerance policy towards domestic violence. The latest proof can be seen from the Arizona Cardinals' coach, Bruce Arians, who said that Jonathan Dwyer will not be welcome back to the team unless he is exonerated. You can also see the change in the way that Adrain Peterson is now deactivated
indefinitely,even though the team's first response was that he was going to play Sunday. I have a pretty good feeling Goodell told the Vikings that was not going to happen. A similar change has taken place with the Panther's Greg Hardy who has gone from starting in week 1 to being deactivated in Game 2. He is now likely out for the season, pending the outcome of his court case.
Clearly the message has become clear--If you're arrested for domestic violence, you are not going to play. NFL players will still be entitled to due process under the law, but Roger Goodell is going to suspend them immediately. That's leadership.
I understand the media's frustration with the fact that Goodell has not hit the morning shows or sat down for a mea culpa on Sunday NFL Countdown, after all the media machine must be fed, but the fact is he is actually doing what is necessary to change the culture. He's not a politician running for the nearest microphone because that's not how Roger Goodell is wired. He's a guy who loves the NFL and has devoted his life to it. He's also a husband and father of daughters which probably makes the issue of domestic violence personal to him.
Those in the media who say that Goodell doesn't care about women or that money is the most important thing to him are wrong. I would say that many in the media lambasting Goodell seem much more interested in promoting themselves and generating clicks than they are about domestic violence. I would challenge the media outlets that are devoting hundreds of minutes and prime column space on their websites in order to criticize Goodell to instead devote some of that precious time and space to raising money for and educating the public about domestic violence.
It's a serious issue and Roger Goodell is addressing it in a serious manner by doing the single most important thing he can do--changing the NFL culture from the top down. That is what he's doing. He's not out there on a media tour giving interviews about what he "might" do, he's actually getting it done. And the fact of the matter is that Roger Goodell, who has the trust and support of the NFL owners, has a much better chance of getting it done than would a new commissioner.
I know that Goodell's style is at odds with the media's need for instant gratification and that his failure to genuflect on Morning Joe means he will continue to get bad PR for the short-term. But I don't think Roger Goodell cares. I don' think he's worried about the next 24-hour news cycle. I think he's worried about the long-term and doing what is necessary to fix this serious problem on a long-term basis.
R.C. O'Leary is the author of the legal thriller Hallways in the Night. Over 30 5-star reviews on Amazon for a novel in which the worlds of professional sports, politics and the criminal justice system collide. On sale for only $2.99 on the Kindle here.