For all his talk about the integrity of the NFL shield, Commissioner Roger Goodell’s inflated ego and rhetoric taints his character.
Goodell’s cowardice in choosing to attend the Falcons’ game in Atlanta for the second consecutive week instead of jetting up to Foxborough for the AFC title clash should send a signal that he lacks all conviction and possesses no credibility.
This all began with Deflategate. Two years ago, New England embarrassed Indianapolis 45-7 in the AFC Championship Game and advanced to Super Bowl XLIX against Seattle. After the game, the Colts stirred up reports about deflated footballs in the second half, resulting in an investigation. Goodell then suspended Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games of the season for his perceived role in the ordeal.
Though the battled raged in courts and the NFL ultimately won out, the sentiment among many fans and scientists is that Brady got hosed. As a result, Goodell is public enemy No. 1 in New England.
It is important to note that this was enabled to an extent by the players and their union. In the last collective bargaining agreement, the NFL Players Association signed off on the agreement that gave Goodell far-reaching disciplinary powers. In Deflategate, Goodell acted like a misguided Leviathan, and by refusing to return to Foxborough this weekend, he refuses to face the people, quarterback and owner he so badly spurned.
Deflategate was also not his first instance of ignoring science to support a personal agenda. Goodell refused to accept the fact that concussions have long-term effects when appearing before Congress in 2009. Though the league shortly acknowledged such a link in December 2009, it is clear that the NFL has done almost everything in his power to bury said link since.
For example, in May 2016, Congressional investigators found conclusive evidence that the NFL waged a backdoor lobbying effort to influence a National Institute of Health study attempting to shed more light on the NFL’s concussion situation and the link between football participation and long-term health consequences. This would not have happened without Goodell’s support.
It would be wrong to solely blame Goodell for the NFL’s attitude toward concussion research. Evidence that the NFL has produced or influenced research that ranges from questionable to downright faulty dates back to the 1990s when Paul Tagliabue (COL ’62) was commissioner.
Ultimately, Goodell’s imperfect personality comes down to a willingness to use power when it is financially and egotistically convenient and an aversion to power on issues that the league purports to care about, such as player safety, concussions and domestic violence.
Goodell’s legacy with fans and players should be even more disappointing when taking his family into consideration. His father, Charles, was a senator from New York in the late 1960s and took a stand against Richard Nixon’s involvement and escalation in Vietnam, costing the older Goodell his seat in the 1970 election cycle. It is no secret to those who have interviewed Goodell that he endlessly admires his father’s integrity and willingness to take a stand. Unfortunately, he is a mere shadow of his father.
The positive legacies of Goodell, such as growing league revenue base and thereby further enriching owners and players, are not unique to Goodell — only someone with no business sense and a poor surrounding staff would have failed to capitalize on the NFL’s surge in popularity to extract more revenue for broadcasting rights.
The major failures of Goodell’s reign, however, have been unique and directly under his control. They were preventable, but were not prevented.
By refusing to attend the Patriots’ game, Goodell looks like a petulant child. In the end, he may be setting himself up for the ultimate embarrassment — if New England wins Super Bowl LI in three weeks, he has to hand the Lombardi Trophy over to Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. While the fans of the 31 other NFL teams are loathe to see New England win another championship, the global humiliation of Roger Goodell would at least be a small consolation to us all.
Michael Ippolito is a senior in the College. The Water Cooler appears every other Friday.
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