Now might be as bad a time as ever to be the last man standing. Just ask Roger Goodell.
With David Stern retiring two months before the Don Sterling debacle shook the NBA to its core and Bud Selig’s departure so overdue that his legacy has been given a gratuitous once over in exchange for the seat he’s held hostage, Goodell stands alone. A reputation that has been reduced to infamy.
Last year’s ESPN expose of the NFL’s willful negligence of the dangers of concussions — the same network which agreed to a blockbuster $15.2 billion deal to retain the rights to MNF through 2021 — threatened the integrity of the sport and it’s continued viability. This year’s upending came in the form of social discontent over the handling of the domestic assault incident involving star Ravens running back Ray Rice and the lousy two-game suspension handed down as punishment for Ray Rice knocking his wife unconscious, all before the preseason even kicked off.
Goodell must contemplate the terms of punishment for Jim Irsay, the Colts owner arrested for a DUI and possession of prescription drugs. While the punishment was already ripe for visceral reaction, Richard Sherman, the NFL’s verbose star, already penned an op-ed admonishing the league and media alike for their noticeably gentler tone with Irsay than the one used with players with similar histories.
Now more than ever — Roger Goodell, the league that he presides over and the disciplinary decisions the NFL has doled out under his leadership are under a microscope that would rival NASA’s best equipment.
The NFL, at the behest of a U.S District Judge, approved a $675 million dollar settlement fund for those players suffering from dementia, symptoms of CTE and other concussion related injuries. The news was barely mentioned in passing. Goodell is still under the indictment of public perception, and if the culture of the NFL means anything, the trend of domestic violence crimes and the league’s mishandling of players involved will be a recurring nightmare for the commish.
The NFL currently enjoys its decades long status as the country’s No. 1 sport and other American professional sports leagues aren’t even close. However, should the NFL feel too secure in its current position of power, it would only take one phone call to Bud Selig’s retirement home in Bayside Village to ask him how it feels to cascade from atop the sports world. Selig still probably shudders at the mere thought of seeing Sammy Sosa’s face — and for more than one reason.
The NFL’s competition is in the rearview mirror but gaining ground. The NBA already enjoys a great deal of success in the global market, and with the worlds most global sport, soccer, starting to make headway domestically in America, it’s not far-fetched to say the NFL has some concerns on their hands. Despite their best efforts, the NFL has not yet figured out a way to make the game sustainable outside of the U.S and with the whole of Central New York fighting tooth and nail, the league might not get it’s best run at breaking into the global race via Toronto where there is already a substantial following and viable market.
Not that anyone should feel sorry for Roger Goodell and these self-inflicted wounds. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, especially when that head has bowed its shoulder deep into the turf to avoid the ugliness being reared in plain sight.
Kwame Belle (@Mr_Belle) is a staff writer for The High Screen.