Smug Goodell keeps NFL machine churning, ignores real change

NEW YORK - Roger Goodell made it abundantly clear Friday afternoon: He's not going anywhere. Goodell, conducting his first news conference since a video showed Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee surfaced and a grand jury indicted Adrian Peterson ...

NEW YORK - Roger Goodell made it abundantly clear Friday afternoon: He's not going anywhere.

Goodell, conducting his first news conference since a video showed Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee surfaced and a grand jury indicted Adrian Peterson for beating at least one of his children, said he has no plans to resign and that he doesn't believe he's in danger of being fired by NFL owners.

"I believe I have the support of the owners," Goodell said in Manhattan.

And he probably still does, even after a news conference in which he was equal parts arrogant and tone-deaf in declaring that he wanted the league's soon-to-be-revamped personal conduct policy to leave players and their families as protected off the field as the NFL's competition committee protects players on it.

"Through this process of evaluation and reform, we keep the game competitive, entertaining -- and most importantly, do everything we can to protect our players on the field from injury," Goodell said.


Please ignore that $765 million the NFL spent to settle with the more than 4,500 players that sued the league for its role in creating their long-term, concussion-related medical problems. Also ignore that Paul Tagliabue, Goodell's predecessor, said in 1994 that the number of concussions in the NFL "is relatively small" and that the idea the NFL had a concussion epidemic was a "journalist issue."

As for the personal conduct policy that initially dictated a two-game penalty for Rice?

"We're in a different age now, with different issues and different challenges," Goodell said.

Apparently, spousal abuse began in 2008.

But the Rice and Peterson issues speak to the all-encompassing problem in a league whose ugliness has long been allowed to simmer just below the made-for-TV surface: Teams have long tolerated abhorrent behavior, as long as it was executed by a really good player.

Hours after Goodell's news conference, ESPN reported the Baltimore Ravens saw the elevator footage of Rice pummeling his then-fiancée unconscious -- the footage TMZ released on Sept. 8 -- within hours of the incident but continued to push for a minimal ban.

The Minnesota Vikings garnered plenty of praise for deactivating Peterson on Sept. 12, the same day he was indicted on child abuse charges in Texas. But the Vikings reinstated Peterson on Sept. 15, one day after a 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots.

A day later, TMZ reported Peterson was under investigation for abusing another one of his children. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the Vikings announced Peterson had been placed on the "exempt/commissioner's permission" list, which means he is inactive but still receives his salary.


All of which is to say: Where is the venom for the men who own the teams that failed to properly punish Rice, Peterson and Greg Hardy, the Carolina Panthers defensive lineman who was convicted of domestic assault in July yet didn't get banned by the Panthers until the Rice/Peterson fallout? There are 29 other franchises, and not one is exempt from such questioning.

Want to know why Goodell isn't likely to resign or get fired? Because like any commissioner, he's paid very well -- $44 million last year, for crying out loud -- to absorb the slings and arrows that should probably be aimed at those that really run the sport.

His job is probably also safe because early indications are these latest scandals will not impact football's popularity -- unlike two decades ago, when the World Series-killing strike took a lasting toll on baseball.

Eighty-six percent of those queried in a Marist poll conducted this week said the NFL's recent spate of bad news would have no bearing on their consumption of football. Only 29 percent said Goodell should lose his job.

The average attendance at a Major League Baseball game in 1994 was 31,612. It fell to 25,260 once players returned to work in 1995 and didn't hit 30,000 again until 2000, well into the Steroid Era.

Of the 28 NFL teams to play a home game this season, 21 have played to at least 95 percent capacity. Last year, 22 of the 32 teams played to at least 95 percent capacity.

The news is even better on TV, which is where the NFL really makes its money. "Sunday Night Football" has been the top-rated network show in each of the last four seasons, and NBC's first two Sunday night telecasts this season each topped the weekly ratings.

In other words: Despite the criminal behavior of some of the best players in the game, and the toll it takes on their bodies now and in the future, we're still going to games, watching on TV and fully investing in our fantasy football teams.


"We will get our house in order," Goodell said.

Even if the occupants -- and their guests -- seem content with the way things are.


By Jerry Beach, The Sports Xchange

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