Roger Goodell: Guilty, Innocent, or None of the Above?

In light of the heavy heat the NFL, and commissioner Roger Goodell have received from the media, congress, and society as a whole, I am writing this blog to offer an alternative outlook on the domestic violence issue surrounding the NFL.

Professional sports, and the athletes that compete in them are put on a pedestal by fans around the world. In essence it is very similar to what the Roman Empire observed in the days of the coliseum. Professional sports are a form of entertainment – entertainment that has provoked media outlets such as ESPN, and other sports networks that promote, analyze, and critique professional athletes. Being an avid viewer of ESPN, and Comcast Sports Network myself, I find that these networks often glorify the athletes that they cover. I am not alone in this sense, as many children grow up idling their favorite athletes, striving to be these people. Because athletes receive social recognition for there talents they are often role models for many young children. This comes packaged with the responsibility of being a model citizen. Unfortunately athletes are sometimes not mature enough to meet the standards required to become a model citizen.

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The reality behind this is that society needs to take a step back, and acknowledge these players for what they really are: phenomenal athletes. Time and time again great athletes have proven themselves to be mediocre citizens at best. For Kobe Bryant is one of the most capable scorers to ever pick up a basketball, but his involvement in a sexual assault case that is often overshadowed by his athletic accomplishments.

Another example is Aaron Hernandez, a great tight end who was an extremely valuable asset to the New England Patriots. Off the field Hernandez has been involved in three different lawsuits that link him to the murders of three people, and the shooting of another man. About 2,500 Hernandez jerseys were returned after the tight end’s true character was revealed, and countless more jerseys purchased are unaccounted for.

Finally we reach the two most recent and prominent example that has dominated sports news recently: the cases involving Ray Rice’s domestic assault against his fiancée and Janay Palmer and Adrian Peterson’s alleged child abuse.

The cases have provoked my most intense frustrations towards society’s outlook on what justice is, and how it needs to be dealt with. After viewing countless episodes of ESPN’s First Take, Sportscenter, Around The Horn, and Pardon the Interruption it is extremely confusing to me that the speculation is focused towards Roger Goodell.

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Goodell’s formal title is CEO of the NFL, which is very similar to the job tttle held by Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft) or Lloyd Blankfein (CEO of Goldman Sachs). Both of the CEO’s just mentioned, and just about every other CEO that oversees a larger corporation, would allow the judicial system to handle any criminal charges regarding one of their employees. The CEO’s would then follow up by placing that specific employee on leave during the criminal investigation, or terminating their employment with the company.

This procedure, or protocol as many businesses refer to them, was the exact steps that Goodell followed. Upon receiving news of Rice’s actions the NFL suspended Rice and waited for a criminal investigation to ensue.

ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” obtained a fact that I found very intriguing to the controversy surrounding Goodell. The report says that the pre-trial intervention program that New Jersey Police offered to Rice in this assault case was granted to less than one percent of all defendants involved in domestic assault cases between 2010 and 2013.

“The decision was arrived at after careful consideration of the information contained in Mr. Rice’s application in light of all of the facts gathered during the investigation…After considering all relevant information in light of applicable law, it was determined that this was the appropriate disposition” said Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain after concluding his investigation on Rice’s case.

It is still unclear as to whether McClain was aware of the security footage from inside of the elevator or not, although he did mention that he considered all relevant information in regards to the case.

Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

And then there is the Adrian Peterson debate that was sparked by the Running Back’s alleged whipping of his 4-year-old son with a tree branch. An action that 94 percent of parents with children between ages three and four have admitted to doing in the past year, according to the Child Trends Data Bank. Yet ESPN and other analysts still ask, should Peterson ever be allowed to partake in the most dangerous game in America? Should Goodell administer harsher penalties against Peterson? Should Goodell resign from commissioner? To me it is nothing shy of ignorant to ask any one of these questions in regards to an action that is not even illegal in the United States.

Now here lies my question to football fans, activists, legislators, and everyone else who is still reading: why should Roger Goodell be held to a different standard than any other CEO? Is it because Goodell’s company is put on the spotlight every Sunday from September through January?

The point here is that the judicial system failed in the proceedings following Ray Rice’s act of domestic violence. As long as Rice completes the specific intervention program, the third-degree aggravated assault charge that was being held against him would be dropped. A case scenario that very few people are given the option of, a case scenario that was probably given to Rice because he is famously known for his success in the NFL.

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This cycle brings us back to one very controversial question, what is Commissioner Goodell’s role in all of this? He was not responsible for giving Ray Rice the easy way out, nor was he responsible of pursuing a criminal investigation against Ray Rice. As a businessman, and as a representative of the NFL as a whole it is not Goodell’s responsibility to criminally prosecute Rice for his alleged actions. While Goodell may have withheld some of the more incriminating evidence against Rice, at the end of the day it is the job of the judicial system to obtain that evidence, and then handle it accordingly. In this case it seems that many feel Rice should have harsher penalties than he received, penalties that can only be admitted by the judicial system.

I am not writing this with the intention of clearing Goodell’s name, but rather to open a blind eye to the bigger picture with which this instance represents. Situations such as these are reoccurring, and more often than many think. Roger Goodell cannot be the policeman for domestic violence, though many of his employees seem to engage in it. Instead we need to focus on the lens with which many of us see athletes, entertainers and other famous people: they are people just like the rest of us. These people of name recognition must be treated to the same standards with which each and every member of society is held accountable to, because as it stands currently they are not.

So I will end with this question to my readers, is it Goodell’s fault that society feels okay admitting people of a higher social class to lesser punishments than the rest of us face for the same actions?

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The Left Bench was launched in 2013 by five University of Maryland freshmen as a blog covering sports of all sorts. Since our beginning, the staff has grown and our focus has changed. Now, The Left Bench focuses heavily on high school athletics and recruiting while still staying true to what we started out covering: professional and college sports.
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About theleftbench 27 Articles
The Left Bench was launched in 2013 by five University of Maryland freshmen as a blog covering sports of all sorts. Since our beginning, the staff has grown and our focus has changed. Now, The Left Bench focuses heavily on high school athletics and recruiting while still staying true to what we started out covering: professional and college sports.