It looks like we’re coming to the end of the Roger Goodell era in pro football — and not a minute too soon. Goodell’s time as NFL commissioner has been one in which propaganda for the league has been akin to first-term Bush Iraq war agitprop, infused with a noxious mélange of hubris, hypocrisy and the rankest sort of moralism.
Up until this month, they were calling him, without any sense of irony, the Ginger Hammer. So determined to protect the Integrity of The Shield that he’d suspend people for up to a year for falling afoul of the NFL’s fatwa against weed. Such an important crusade for Goodell, as he took aim at Josh Gordon and so many other players who lay their bodies on the line week after week, hazarding head trauma, whose sole crime was self-medication as a respite from the incomparable rigors of NFL football in the HGH age.
Goodell loved to take the hard line … until the Ray Rice situation blew up. Ironic, isn’t it, that the guy who wanted to run the model corporate totalitarian policy against recreational drugs ended up being the same guy to drop a two-game “excuse me, NBD” suspension on Rice for doing his best Jim Brown impersonation in an Atlantic City casino? The videotape that came to light earlier this month was the world’s worst-kept secret since No WMDs in Iraq, with accurate descriptions of it being tendered throughout the summer.
There are some who say, unbelievably, that relationship violence is just a matter between two people. That barbarism informed Goodell’s initial decision to go easy on Rice. We all know, at this point, that the league has lied all year about what it knew and when it knew it regarding Rice. For most people, that would indicate a severe credibility gap.
Not so for Shad Khan, Jaguars owner. Khan refused to talk to the media about this; rather, he issued a one-paragraph statement, with the expected admonishments against domestic violence, and with a preemptive defense of Roger the Dodger.
“I have always had great faith in Commissioner Goodell,” Khan said. “I applaud his decision to have this matter investigated by an independent party, and I know the process will be seen through objectively and with great integrity. As a league, we want and will accept nothing less, and I am sure Commissioner Goodell feels the same.”
Yeah, dude. We know you and Goodell are homies — a lot of discussion over the years as to whether Goodell wants the franchise to have London as a Plan B if this market doesn’t heat up enough. Of course, you denied it. To be fair, you’ve invested in the city, buying property and renting a mayor. And the city has invested in you. We’ve got the biggest scoreboards in the civilized world — and a passel of practice-squad players at wide receiver and Chad Henne throwing the ball to them. (Well, not anymore.)
Do you really trust this league, which buried evidence about concussions until Jovan Belcher forced its hand, to handle its own investigation? “Great faith”? “Great integrity”? You found something in this whole mess to “applaud”? Goodell’s PR game is about on a level with Pervez Musharraf’s these days.
The Adrian Peterson atrocity will advance this narrative further, and folks ranging from National Organization for Women to this writer believe that Goodell should resign before the ink dries on this print run. A potential replacement? Condoleezza Rice, who has experience with hot messes (e.g., Bush administration foreign policy).
Condi Rice has said that being the NFL commissioner is her dream job. Perhaps, rather than defending the disgraced Goodell, Khan might be better served issuing a statement supporting her for that role, which may be the best bet for a league grappling with serious PR and ethics problems.