There’s a reason the NFL shoots down official association with any production that depicts it in what they deem as inaccurate. Because they know that the movie or show is never far off from the truth. That shield is a blight. That shield is tarnished. What does it even stand for these days? For Roger Goodell, that’s a question he may not be equipped to answer.
As the ‘face’ of the league since 1989, Goodell has presided over and fought for many innovations and advancements to the game. What we all thought was going on in locker rooms is in fact true. Goodell seems to be mum on the issues facing the league. Unfortunately, as he plans to exit this season, his legacy and his successor will likely be fighting these same battles next year; and we’re not even done with the season yet.
The league recently cut a check to former players in August to settle its brain injury case. For $765 million, the NFL has now wiped its hands clean of any wrongdoing when it comes to concussions. But that didn’t stop former Chicago Bears quarterback Bobby Douglass from filing a lawsuit against the NFL and helmet maker Riddell late Monday night claiming he and other players were told to play through the pain because ‘[brain injuries] weren’t long term’. Other players have shunned in-house team doctors for independent exams by those that don’t have any underlying interest like James Andrews. Add that to this racially charged powder-keg of Richie Incognito‘s hazing of Jonathan Martin and you’ve got a public relations nightmare, with the latter likely to have picked up steam nationally. The Miami Dolphins suspended Incognito for the inappropriate texts and voicemails and rightfully so. ‘He’s a bigot, he’s a racist … it’s all those things’ ESPN anchor Tom Jackson stated during the Monday Night Football telecast. And Jackson is right. But really, racism has been a part of the locker room since the game’s inception hasn’t it?
Just recently we’ve seen it not in the locker room but publicly with Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper. Not just rampant racism but also a blatant disparity in the number of coaches that are minorities. In the Rooney Rule age, there’s still not enough diversity in the NFL workplace. Many black coaches claimed in January that the Rooney Rule is broken. When Andy Reid can have the season he had with the Eagles and just ease into a new job, it’s sure to raise some eyebrows among the league’s minority coaches. Jim Caldwell worked wonders and has a Super Bowl on his resume and still can’t find work. It’s just not racism or perceived racism in the way the NFL hires; it’s also the failed drug tests. Like I said the league is fighting multiple fires and failing at extinguishing them. Goodell is a company man and will do everything to claim the NFL is safe and committed to hiring minorities. But it’s far from enough.
Those Hollywood depictions of the goon mentality and players shooting up anabolic steroids may be fiction but they’re not far from the truth. What Goodell and the NFL fail to realize is that although they are saying the right things when it comes to their commitment to player safety, doing is another. The NFL has decided to let the fans vote with their dollars and as a result you’ve got more games proposed. You have Brandon Meriweather claiming he’s out to tear receiver’s ACL ligaments in games. You have expanded playoff formats and a stance that says quality and player safety is secondary to making money. Something the NFL shares with its Hollywood counterpart. When you make billions doing bad profiting off a gladiator sport, how can you make good? Can you?
Those questions need to be asked and answered definitively by Goodell and his successor.