Roger Goodell has himself to blame

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New England Patriot fans can sleep well knowing Tom Brady will not be suspended this year for his role in Deflategate. I say this year because the war between Brady and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is far from over and who knows what the future holds. Goodell has only himself to blame for this mess and given his past history, I am quite certain he will find new ways to make what should have disappeared months ago turn into his own Custer’s Last Stand.

You should ignore Goodell’s comments, and the comments of his supporters, who will continue to claim they care only about the integrity of the game. Deflategate has nothing to do with integrity and everything to do with how much power the commissioner has to wield over players.

Somehow, Goodell, and the commissioners of the other major professional sports leagues, believe they not only have final say over player discipline, but that discipline does not have to fall within any guidelines. In Goodell’s case, he clearly believes in an arbitrary form of handing out player discipline as evidenced in the randomness of his decisions, which all too often leave us to wonder, “What the hell was he thinking?”

As it is now, the NFL has a system in place in which there are clearly defined sets of rules. The amount of air pressure for game balls is set and tampering with it is considered cheating. However, there is no clearly defined punishment for those who break the rule. In the case of Brady, who Goodell said he did not believe after questioning him, there is no irrefutable evidence that indicates Tom was responsible for the under inflated-balls used in the last AFC Championship game.

Like the commissioner, most of us think Brady had something to do with the tampered footballs. But thinking something about someone does not make him or her guilty of cheating. Without clear proof, Goodell has no logical reason for suspending Brady for one-fourth of the regular season.

This is exactly what the judge determined when he tossed out Brady’s suspension. Without direct evidence, the four-game suspension did not make sense, especially when it was compared to some of the other punishments Goodell handed out prior to Deflategate.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is now free to play every game this season.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is now free to play every game this season.

Goodell cannot just hand out what he thinks is a fair and just punishment. If courts have sentencing guidelines, so must the NFL. On the field, game penalties are clearly defined and come with equally clear consequences. The same must be true for all other league penalties.

Goodell was “encouraged” to make an example of Brady by several NFL owners. Both Indianapolis, the team New England destroyed in the AFC title game, and Baltimore, the team that lost to the Patriots the week before, have owners who wanted Goodell to come down hard on the Patriots. Both talked about the importance of maintaining the integrity of the game. Both are hypocrites.

Indianapolis is the same organization that had no problem with packing up its franchise and moving in the middle of the night from the city they use to represent, Baltimore, to one that offered them a sweeter deal.

The team’s owner has a history of drug and alcohol abuse, so do not believe for a second he practices what he preaches. And do not forget, New England blew out the Colts after a tight first half, after the under-inflated footballs were properly re-inflated.

As for the Baltimore Ravens, who stole the Cleveland Browns and renamed them, after the Colts left the city without a football team, there is more credible evidence they withheld information from Roger Goodell as part of the league’s investigation of Ray Rice punching out his then fiancé than there is on Brady being involved in tampering with game balls. It seems it was more important the Ravens do all they could to limit the time they had to play without their star running back than thinking of the integrity of the game, let alone the integrity of battered women nation wide.

Still, this is all Goodell’s fault. A smart person would have seen Deflategate as a no win situation. He would have sent a stern letter to the New England Patriots warning them of the consequences for any future under-inflated footballs.

TheS uper Bowl XLIX Vince Lombardi Trophy with the helmets of the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots.
TheS uper Bowl XLIX Vince Lombardi Trophy with the helmets of the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots.

He would have then sent a memorandum to all the teams warning them of the range of punishments for cheating in any form and then establish the new protocol that goes into effect this year for game balls.

Instead, Goodell saw this as an opportunity to strengthen his disciplinary power and decided to go all in without considering the harm doing so would do to the league in terms of negative publicity, let alone what it would do if the league lost in the courts. Now Goodell has no choice but to continue fighting. He will appeal this decision and if necessary, go as far as the Supreme Court.

And while he does all this, his disciplinary powers will continue to be challenged by players who in the future do more serious harm to not just the game, but to women, children, and society in general. By appealing this decision, Goodell will end up looking like a vindictive person who thinks only of himself and not about the game. But then, with a salary of $48 million dollars a year, Goodell has too much to lose to care about what is best for the NFL. Perhaps his wallet is the only thing larger than his ego.

(All photos by Claudia Gestro)