by JDCam September 21st 2014
The NFL has rarely seen darker days. Who can remember a week like this? The league has been mired in off-field scandal and outrage and unbelievably, it has taken a week of this magnitude to awaken the outrage of the nation that it’s most popular sport holds at its center a group of stakeholders cancerous to the ideals of sportsmanship, professionalism and morality.
Let’s first review a basic timeline of the week. The Ray Rice incident exploded into the national consciousness when video footage awoke the public at large to just how shocking and abusive his assault of then fiancée and now wife Janay Palmer was. The water surrounding Rice has been consistently muddied as his initially ridiculous two game suspension resulted in an NFL policy change (6 games for a first time offender of domestic violence) to the NFL suspending him indefinitely when the footage was released by TMZ on September 8th.
This turned the public eye back onto Greg Hardy, the Carolina Panthers defensive end who was convicted of assaulting a female and communicating threats on July 16th after a domestic dispute on May 13th with his then girlfriend in which she alleged he threatened to kill her. Hardy was sentenced to 18 months probation and a 60 day jail sentence was suspended. His case is currently under appeal.
Next it emerged that a grand jury in Houston had indicted Adrian Peterson on charges of reckless/negligent injury caused to a child after it was alleged he used a switch to discipline his son after a behavioral mishap. The boy was taken to the ER and the case reported by the boy’s mother, after he sustained welts and lacerations to his thighs, buttocks and scrotum. Further historical allegations have since been brought against Peterson by a mother of another of his children. No charges were brought in the additional case after it was reported to child protective services.
A law enforcement official alleged that a copy of the tape recently published by TMZ was mailed to the NFL in early April. Roger Goodell and the NFL countered with the incompetence excuse, claiming they had no knowledge of the tape until it was published by TMZ. The official in turn, posited that there is a recorded phone confirmation in which a female employee of the NFL’s head office in NYC acknowledged receipt of the tape. The NFL has since launched an independent investigation into the incident. Rice, for his part, is in the process of appealing his indefinite suspension.
When news of his indictment surfaced the Vikings (to their credit) deactivated him for their week 2 game against the Patriots. Anheuser Busch, one of the NFL’s primary sponsors weighed in Tuesday and expressed their growing concern that ‘recent incidents have overshadowed the NFL season’
McDonalds and Visa have also expressed similar concerns. With three of the NFL’s primary corporate backers weighing in I made a not so bold prediction on Wednesday
- Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy will be suspended by the league prior to their respective teams week 3 games
For me and I’m sure many others this would prove the NFL’s ultimate hypocrisy. Suspending these players should have happened immediately. When will the NFL take responsibility for the actions of its players?
My prediction of course, wasn’t entirely correct. The Vikings and Panthers themselves suspended their respective superstars by adding them to the exempt commissioner’s permission list. This was certainly a stroke of genius from the NFL as they deflected some of the scorn of the public who feel that they are just appeasing corporate sponsors. Additionally we are finally hearing from the people we should be hearing from, the owners of the respective teams.
The Vikings and the Panthers have handled the situations of their respective players in a historically disgraceful fashion. Panther’s owner Gerry Richardson began crying while talking about the Greg Hardy situation and domestic violence, wow, just wow. Richardson, the general public does not want to see this embarrassing sham. We want to see you take a firm stand on an issue that is becoming the blight of this young NFL season. Additionally, the Panthers did not add Hardy to the exempt commissioner’s permission list until the day after the Vikings added Peterson. Hardy has been convicted in the case against his then girlfriend. What does it take for a professional athlete to see a legitimate consequence (from their employer) for inexcusable behavior?
The Vikings handles Peterson equally farcically. After deactivating Peterson against the Patriots they reinstated him Monday morning, before reversing there decision mid-week between weeks two and three. Additionally, the Wilf brothers sent Vikings GM Rick Spielman to squirm hopelessly in front of the media and face the situation rather than facing the music and speaking publicly themselves. When they did finally take to the podium Zygi told us that ‘we made a mistake and need to get this right’. Wilf went to state that ‘it is important to always listen to our fans, community and our sponsors’.
Wilf may as well have turned the reverb on his mic on as most of us heard ‘it is important to always listen to our fans, community and our sponsors sponsors sponsors’. Let’s get real Zygi, this all sounds so fake. His statement was just a painfully underwhelming foreshadowing of Roger Goodell’s say little; do even less approach evidenced at his Friday 19th press conference after 10 days of hiding.
Goodell’s Friday press conference showed him for the spineless and unconcerned leader that he is. After his initial statement he went on to outline plans and commitments, except that he didn’t. ‘Nothing is off the table’ he told us, he also detailed a new committee designed to review NFL player conduct before going on to mention the Super bowl as the time when new decisions on updated personal conduct polcies will be updated. The Super bowl? Really? The NFL needed to get one thing right here, to act swiftly and decisively, it did neither.
Incidentally how pissed would you have been hearing that if your name was Sean Payton (or anyone else involved in the Saints bounty scandal). At the time Goodell stated that ‘ignorance is not an excuse’. Yet in the last few weeks Goodell and the NFL’s message has been laughably in opposition to that statement. We didn’t know about the tape, we didn’t see the tape has been the consistent message. Talk about double standards.
So where does the NFL go from here? Particularly after Cardinals RB Jonathan Dwyer has since been deactivated for allegedly head-butting his wife in the face, punching her and throwing a shoe at their 1 year old son on July 21st.
People ask why the NFL should be held accountable as a model of morality. I don’t think anyone is asking for that. The NFL viewing public doesn’t expect athletes to be perfect. It has to be clear however that they are beholden to a set of behavioral standards which allow them the privilege to play. The NFL’s job is simple, to make rigorous standards of behavior for their players and personnel and to enforce them consistently. So far this week, they have failed miserably on all counts.