Friday, September 19, 2014

More Goodell More Of The Time

Roger Goodell went before media on Friday with a news conference where he again accepted blame for recent NFL controversies involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, etc.   The ensuing presser lacked much detail despite some tough questioning, and of course led to widespread media ripping of Goodell - much ink was spilled on Tedy Bruschi's call for Goodell to be removed as NFL commissioner, while lost in the shuffle was reporter Pam Oliver (one of the best sideline reporters in the business; she famously stood up to loudmouthed receiver Keyshawn Johnson for instance) and her positive assessment of Goodell's presser.

Following the presser came another Outside The Lines story, this one delving into the Baltimore Ravens and their lobbying of the courts and Goodell on Rice's behalf - that ESPN even sees fit to examine team lobbying for Rice makes it out to be sinister, as though a team shouldn't be lobbying for a player when it has legitimate grounds to do so - it is impossible, for instance, to see the New England Patriots not quietly lobbying the courts if some form of exculpatory information ever surfaced regarding Aaron Hernandez.  There is also that the report in effect lets coach John Harbaugh off the hook by portraying him as someone who wanted to cut Rice when the incident took place where team owner Steve Bisciotti and the Ravens front office lobbied for him.   The Ravens deny that Harbaugh wanted to cut Rice and the obvious implausibility of that angle of the Outside The Lines report lends credence to the denial.

Lost in the coverage and the continued round of media grandstanding is that it still does not make a credible case against Goodell's initial handling of the Rice incident.  Where Goodell and the Ravens warrant criticism was in hanging Rice out to dry - this after the media (specifically TMZ) launched a grandstanding/armchair lawyering campaign, trying to reverse the initial two-game suspension without facing that the objective facts of the incident meant it legitimately did not warrant more than a two-game suspension.  

The whole Ray Rice and domestic abuse controversy is not about Rice or even Goodell - it is about media grandstanding and armchair lawyering.   More responsible coverage would have noted that it wasn't an unprovoked attack and that Rice was a first-time offender who did what was required of him by the law enforcement people and the courts, and there would have been some significant dissent from the established narrative that Rice should have been punished more.  

And for all the "moralistic preening and voyeuristic pandering" (as Politico so superbly put it) about the NFL and domestic abuse, the league is far and away cleaner than societies here or abroad, and the umbrage over the league's ostensible lack of a domestic abuse policy ignores that the percentage of accusations that are false is far too high for the league (or anyone else) to ignore.  

Yet for all that, the answer may have been stumbled upon with the new suspension with pay approach used by the Arizona Cardinals, the Carolina Panthers, and the Vikings in their recent issues of certain players arrested on domestic abuse accusations.   This appears to be what teams will follow from here on.

The Mainstream Media (political and sports) warrants its share of criticism over Ray Rice etc.  It's not just "J'Accuse!" to be aimed at Roger Goodell or the Ravens.

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