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Zero Tolerance Only Solution for NFL's Goodell
What the Fans Really Think
In an informal survey conducted across the first two weeks of the 2014 NFL season, I found four basic reactions to the NFL's parade of pro athletes beating, punching, or otherwise bullying people they supposedly love. Here they are:
- As a bully myself, I think the NFL is on a witch hunt.
- This brutal sport should be banned.
- The league needs stiffer penalties for this sort of thing.
- How would Roger Goodell respond if I beat him unconscious?
Most of the people I spoke with felt that the NFL should have a zero tolerance policy on all violence outside of the playing field. What's more, no one I spoke to believed that taking performance enhancing drugs should carry a stiffer penalty than domestic violence or child abuse.
Foxes in Henhouses
The league, the Vikings, the 49ers, and a slew of other teams have already proven that they don't believe that domestic violence (untaped) is as bad as taking a drug to make you stronger. Admittedly, the penalty stiffens if video evidence is found. Not because the video proves guilt (Ray Rice admitted punching his fiancé before the video of him doing so was released), but because it hurts the league brand.
When the Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf announced, “To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child," but complete that announcement by saying that they intend to let Adrian Peterson suit up less than a week after he was indicted, they are not doing it to let justice run its course. Peterson has already admitted that he abused his own child.
The Vikings are profiting off Peterson for as long as they can, plain and simple. In doing so, they are appealing only to (some) diehard Viking fans and those who hold the first opinion above, "As a bully myself, I think the NFL is on a witch hunt."
Because, I assure you, if a tape of Adrian existed, if we could play a tape of Peterson's four year old son begging his father not to beat him on every sports broadcast in the country, they would not be making this statement. They would be backtracking like Roger Goodell did after the tape of Ray Rice knocking his (then) fiancé unconscious was made public.
Protecting the NFL's Brand
When it comes to multi-million dollar players, we who put human dignity above team records are left out of the equation. Make no mistake, the teams suiting up players they know beat a child or a woman are making a calculated financial decision. Put on a ribbon to celebrate women? Sure. It's good for the NFL brand. But, stand up to a bully for women? Teams haven't proven willing to do that.
The Vikings owners, like the Ravens before them, want to fill every seat in the stadium. They want to continue to sell Adrian Peterson jerseys, and to get that all important chance at the NFL playoffs. They want to increase their ad revenue and keep the cash flowing into their own pockets. But in the minds of a growing number of fans, these owners, along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell are short-sighted cowards.
The NFL has worked very hard both to control and carefully extend its brand. They invested millions into NFL Europe, but pulled back to simply play a few league games in Europe. They furiously defend their exclusive rights to all namesakes, logos, and so forth.The executives will explain to you that is is all about protecting their brand. But what if your brand becomes one of brutality against the innocent? What if every fan can hear the screams of a young boy begging his father not to beat him with a stick? Is this good for the league? Does this protect your brand?
Ask yourself, would the league really suffer if players who assault women, children, or even other men, were banned forever, rather than suspended for a season? Are we really better off with proven criminals playing?
What these very rich and out of touch men have failed to understand is that the NFL brand would be much stronger if it stopped alienating women, potential new fans, and men who respect basic human rights. We all know fans who will hate Michael Vick forever over his abuse of dogs. And I know a fans who are now saying they will switch the game off for good if Roger Goodell and his friends do not figure this out in a heck of a hurry. It's not that hard. Take a hard line stance. Tell those who support bullies to shove it. Be a hero, not an enabler.
Act from Strength, Not Cowardice
The league needs to act from strength. What is strength? Strength here is acknowledging that it is a privilege to coach, play on, or own one of these franchises. Anyone who violates the trust of society should lose that right - permanently upon conviction. Insofar as letting due process run its course, I firmly believe a suspension of the perpetrator while they undergo legal proceedings is the safest course.
If the league took this hardline stance, they would not be viewed as weak, but strong. Such a policy would not be viewed as overly harsh by many, largely because no one would view a multimillionaire player, owner or coach as a victim in any of these cases. If the accused is found innocent, then they could of course be instantly reinstated. It's not that I don't get "innocent until proven guilty." That still applies in a court of law, as it should. We are talking about a message. About a brand. About having a policy that protects the innocent.
Would this hurt some teams? Yes, while conversely helping others: you know, those who don't employ as many wife beaters, child abusers, and other violent offenders.
Lastly, let me make this is clear. Neither Roger Goodell, nor any NFL owner, would ever consent to being beaten with a stick, knocked unconscious, or even grabbed by an NFL player.
If a player punched Roger Goodell, even where there were no cameras, he would get more than a short suspension. He would be banned for life. Let that sink in, because for me, that kind of double standard is the mark of a coward.