Roger Goodell: Too Much or Too Little Power?

Commissioner Roger Goodell. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

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Since August 8, 2006, the National Football League (NFL) has been in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s hands. Many people, however, have been expressing their concerns over the past decade about Goodell being unfit for leadership of the league. Goodell oversees each case of misconduct for all NFL players, and some people have accused him of making decisions prematurely without sufficient evidence, which is concerning to viewers and players. He is “the judge and jury,” according to Ken Belson in The New York Times, and bases his decisions on what he knows. Appeals have been awarded to players after his convictions that had no real evidence.

I believe that Goodell abuses the power he has to make decisions regarding NFL players’ actions. Does it make sense to give a player who physically abused his partner a two-game suspension and a man who allegedly deflated balls a four-game suspension? Of course not, but that didn’t stop Goodell.

Janay and Ray Rice address the media in December 2014. Photo courtesy of AP.

Initially in Ray Rice’s 2014 domestic violence case, Rice, a Baltimore Ravens powerhouse running back, was given a two-game suspension for violently striking his wife in the face. Goodell found this outrageous and changed it to an indefinite suspension. Even though Goodell’s intentions of extending Rice’s suspension period seemed plausible, the reasons for his intentions were not. Goodell “had no new facts on which he could base his increased suspension on.” Blind accusations with no concrete evidence are unhealthy, especially from an NFL commissioner who isn’t even a real judge or jury. As promised, Rice was granted an appeal to pinpoint the allotted time for his suspension. Video evidence was found of him knocking out his wife and dragging her out of an elevator. Rice won his appeal because before videos were leaked, the Commissioner had little to no concrete evidence against him and therefore had no right to make his indefinite suspension decision.

Roger Goodell (left) and Patriots QB Tom Brady (right). Photo courtesy of Jonathan Daniel/Getty; Tom Pennington/Getty

Another big controversy was over the five-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady. In a case known commonly as Deflategate, Brady was accused of knowing about the use of under-inflated balls during the American Football Conference (AFC) championship game against the Indianapolis Colts on January 8, 2015. When Goodell was informed of the issue, Brady was given a four-game suspension by the NFL, with very little convincing evidence as to how much, if at all, Brady was involved. Brady filed for an appeal, but Goodell upheld his four game suspension, and eventually this issue was brought to a federal court.

The Rice and Brady cases, as well as other examples from the last eleven years, demonstrate that Goodell is a corrupt and power-hungry commissioner. It is completely unjust to make decisions without being able to back them up with evidence, along with the suggestion that domestic violence is somehow less severe of an infraction versus deflating a ball. According to Goodell, they are equal and should receive similar punishments, but in the real world violence trumps allegedly deflating a ball and should receive far worse punishments.  

After the Rice case, the NFL launched a new Personal Conduct Policy in 2014. The new process is a more formal and efficient way to deal with issues involving player misconduct. “We now have a layered evaluation process to take into account a diversity of expert views. This will better enable us to make appropriate decisions and ensure accountability for everyone involved in the process,” said Goodell following the announcement of their new policy. I support the new policy because it restricts people like Goodell from making decisions without professional input. The NFL has cracked down on player misconduct and is handling it with care. The new policy is there to avoid Goodell’s allegations without reason, and so far the 2015 and 2016 seasons have been running smoothly.

I think people are still hostile towards Goodell, and frankly I think it is time for him to resign. He has been here for 10 years and has caused nothing but trouble and distrust within the NFL. It says a great deal about a commissioner if none of his players respect him in any way. He has lost the trust he needs to be deemed a successful and impactful football league commissioner. Goodell should not be paid $34.1 million a year for what he does.

About the author

Patrick is a senior at Collegiate.