Roger Goodell and a Dream Deferred

The ruling on the Ray Rice scandal temporarily closes the door on one of the most controversial disciplinary rulings in NFL history. While Rice’s indefinite suspension ceases and teams can sign the former Baltimore Raven, it appears unlikely that any team will. Really that decision comes down to the discretion of the teams’ personnel and their thoughts on whether or not Rice appears apologetic for his heinous act. Some of the spotlight remains on him and his wife, but the media scrutiny for Goodell seems out of focus.

Various news sources are commenting on the ambiguity and inconsistency in the Commissioner’s statements. Yet, there is a complete disregard to the other social issues the commissioner seems to neglect. To combat the Rice and Hardy suspensions (the latter of whom has disappeared completely from the attention of the NFL audience), the NFL launched a “No More” campaign as a way to promote the ending of violence. I hold players like John Lynch and Cris Carter in the highest regard, but preaching to the NFL audience, the ones who rebuked the original punishment, seems just as a poor masking of the major problems that plague the NFL. Skim through any of the “Outside the Lines” articles that discuss the topic of domestic violence, and you will see the abundant amount of instances where the culprit’s punishment is unfitting for his crime. The “No More” campaign is a public relations stunt that calls for us, the fans, to help make changes, yet for years the league improperly dealt with this important issue.

Amidst this NFL controversy came the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the accused rape by a fraternity brother at the University of Virginia. In both situations, there is not enough evidence to draw a full-proof conclusion. Due to this, people around the United States debate this rather delicate topic. Maybe we will never know what happened; regardless, both of these tragedies call us to think about a larger issue. The murders of Amadou Diallo and Oscar Grant are examples of police brutality, and again, while everyone has their own opinion on Mike Brown, police brutality is a blight that hurts our nation on a daily basis. The same goes for the UVA case with one in four female college students say they have been victims of sexual assault.

In both cases, proper measures went in to place: A grand jury examined Officer Wilson’s case while the president of UVA shut down all fraternities for the remainder of the semester. Yet, the NFL’s handling of Rice is completely unorganized. Goodell wrote down random words and phrases. He scribbled down Ray Lewis’s name and could not recall why, yet remembered writing down the word “struck” as Rice’s description of his then-fiancee hitting him. His note-taking ability seems incredible compared to VP Alphonso Birch, who only wrote down the phrase “bottle service” and then proceeded to ask Rice one and only one question that dealt with alcohol and lacked pertinence to the matter at hand.

Goodell claims that to him the most important thing is the remorse he sees from the player. It is ironic that he is apathetic to the complaints of those who are offended by the name “Redskins”, the players who received improper treatment from team doctors, and the countless women in the numerous other cases who suffered the assaults and Goodell suspended most of the assailants for one maybe two games. When Goodell first entered the position, he became a no-nonsense type of leader whose punishment tactics were harsh. Over time, he cares more about his perception to the owners than the millions of consumers of the NFL. I do not want Goodell to admit he lied, or that the Redskins name is racist, or that the doctors deserved to be fired. I want an apology and action. The NFL fans deserve that much. These issues bubble underneath a liquid surface, and as Langston Hughes wrote many years ago, “or does it explode?”. Unless Goodell can amend his wrongs, the NFL will confront many difficult obstacles, but the support for Goodell will be less than ever before.

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