Commentary Magazine


Topic: Roger Goodell

The Stain of the Saints

Many newspapers in America gave front-page coverage to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton for the coming year (costing him his $7.5 million salary), former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games next season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games. In addition, the franchise was fined $500,000 and lost several high future draft picks.

The penalties were leveled in the aftermath of an investigation of the Saints’ illegal bounty program designed, in part, to injure opposing players from 2009 to 2011. It was the strongest punishment in league history.

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Many newspapers in America gave front-page coverage to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton for the coming year (costing him his $7.5 million salary), former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games next season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games. In addition, the franchise was fined $500,000 and lost several high future draft picks.

The penalties were leveled in the aftermath of an investigation of the Saints’ illegal bounty program designed, in part, to injure opposing players from 2009 to 2011. It was the strongest punishment in league history.

Drew Brees, the Pro Bowl quarterback of the Saints, said via Twitter, “I am speechless. Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. The best there is. I need to hear an explanation for punishment.”

How about (for starters) lying to the NFL during its investigation and refusing to stop the program after the league had ordered it to do so. You could add to the list conduct that is disgraceful (paying a bounty to players whose hit causes another player to be taken off the field on a stretcher borders on malevolence). And protecting players from injury. And the integrity of the game. And sending a message that will prevent anything like this from every happening again.

It is precisely because football is an inherently violent game that clear boundaries need to be drawn and certain rules abided by. The New Orleans Saints, a franchise that a few years ago was the feel-good sports story of the year, has stained itself in ways that will be hard to recover from.

Roger Goodell, on the other hand, acted in an appropriate and impressive manner. He sent a powerful message, including a powerful moral message that will become a model for other profession sports leagues.

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NFL Action: Goodell on Roethlisberger

According to ESPN:

Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games on Wednesday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, the NFL announced. The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback also was ordered to undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation. Commissioner Roger Goodell will evaluate Roethlisberger’s progress before the season and might consider reducing the suspension to four games. However, a failure to comply with the NFL’s ruling might lead to a longer suspension.

In his letter to Roethlisberger, Goodell said:

I recognize that the allegations [of sexual assault] in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you. My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.

Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare.

I believe it is essential that you take full advantage of the resources available to you. My ultimate disposition in this matter will be influenced by the extent to which you do so, what you learn as a result, and a demonstrated commitment to making positive change in your life.

In your six years in the NFL, you have first thrilled and now disappointed a great many people. I urge you to take full advantage of this opportunity to get your life and career back on track.

Good for Roger Goodell — and good for the Steeler organization and the city of Pittsburgh, which is not standing behind Roethlisberger. The disappointment and anger directed at Roethlisberger, who has found himself in trouble before, is hard to overstate. In fact, ESPN reports that the Steelers are entertaining trade offers from other clubs (such a trade would surprise me).

Goodell has made it clear in the past, and with this latest action, that he takes the phrase “integrity of the game” seriously. He understands that athletes, whether they want to or not, are role models, and they should be held to some minimal standards of conduct. And he knows that as commissioner, he has a “brand” — the best in sports — to protect.

I have no idea whether Roethlisberger is going to finally get his life under control, but what Goodell has done will increase the possibility that he will.

What Goodell did was impressive. Ben Roethlisberger is down to his last chance. He can’t say he hasn’t been warned.

According to ESPN:

Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games on Wednesday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, the NFL announced. The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback also was ordered to undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation. Commissioner Roger Goodell will evaluate Roethlisberger’s progress before the season and might consider reducing the suspension to four games. However, a failure to comply with the NFL’s ruling might lead to a longer suspension.

In his letter to Roethlisberger, Goodell said:

I recognize that the allegations [of sexual assault] in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you. My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.

Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare.

I believe it is essential that you take full advantage of the resources available to you. My ultimate disposition in this matter will be influenced by the extent to which you do so, what you learn as a result, and a demonstrated commitment to making positive change in your life.

In your six years in the NFL, you have first thrilled and now disappointed a great many people. I urge you to take full advantage of this opportunity to get your life and career back on track.

Good for Roger Goodell — and good for the Steeler organization and the city of Pittsburgh, which is not standing behind Roethlisberger. The disappointment and anger directed at Roethlisberger, who has found himself in trouble before, is hard to overstate. In fact, ESPN reports that the Steelers are entertaining trade offers from other clubs (such a trade would surprise me).

Goodell has made it clear in the past, and with this latest action, that he takes the phrase “integrity of the game” seriously. He understands that athletes, whether they want to or not, are role models, and they should be held to some minimal standards of conduct. And he knows that as commissioner, he has a “brand” — the best in sports — to protect.

I have no idea whether Roethlisberger is going to finally get his life under control, but what Goodell has done will increase the possibility that he will.

What Goodell did was impressive. Ben Roethlisberger is down to his last chance. He can’t say he hasn’t been warned.

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