Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My Advice for Roger Goodell

By Jeff Bowers

Back in the Spring when Mark Cuban made his bold claim that the NFL Empire, much like the Romans, was nearing its fall from atop the sports landscape (link here), I and many others thought he was merely jealous or mistaken or both. Six months later, it seems Rome is indeed burning with Commissioner Goodell presiding with fiddle in hand. This Ray Rice fiasco is merely just the latest case of incompetence by this league in recent years. From concussions to Bountygate to misbehaving owners and inconsistent punishments, Goodell's tenure at the helm has been rocky at best. So here is my advice to the Commissioner to not only help his league, but also possibly save his job in 3 easy steps.

Step One: Give Up Some Power 

It has become abundantly clear that the responsibility of doling out punishment for naughty players, coaches, officials or owners is too much for one man to handle. The amount of investigation and due diligence needed to properly maintain a level consistency and responsibility far exceeds the effort displayed by the league in the past few years. From the early overreactions (like Bountygate) that were overturned by the courts to the massive under reactions (like Spygate or this Ray Rice situation), it seems as though Goodell's objective is like defending a Hail Mary: just knock it down as quickly as possible.

Therefore, I would advise the Commish to set up a special council charged with administering justice for wrong-doers. This council of 3 to 7 people would be made up of former players, execs, law enforcement and coaches (I'm looking at you, Tony Dungy) and would have a staff to help fully investigate transgressions and would write briefs on each case with dissents also included. The Commissioner would retain his power to hear appeals, but this takes the burden and the blood off of his hands and thus the league's. Showing the humility to give up a chunk of this power would also probably help him keep his job as well.

Step Two: Use It or Lose It 

Step Two is referring to the NFL's "non-profit" status (details here). An organization that produces as much money as the entire GDP of the country of Malta should either be an amazing force for charity in this country and around the world (as opposed to merely promoting its own product and convincing moms that their violent sports is "safe") or should voluntarily give up that tax break. Given the black eyes the league has suffered recently, I might recommend going with the former.

Might I advise a somewhat "biblical" solution: take 10% off the top for external charitable organizations (starting here) before distributing it to a bunch of billionaires with fixed labor costs.

Step Three: Universal Healthcare 

Even with all the vitriol around this Ray Rice situation, the biggest threat to the NFL's future is still the health and well-being of its players. The concussion issue is no where near resolved, despite the settlement reached in the lawsuit, and the safety of the game has become an issue in homes around America. To keep football from going the way of boxing due to it's violent nature, the Commissioner must take some bold action. But this issue is perhaps the easiest to solve by doing what every other corporation in America is required by law to do: provide healthcare! Not team trainers, but actual healthcare plans. Once a player gets tenure (maybe 17 active games?) he is enrolled in the league healthcare plan FOR LIFE. I figure, if Congress can do it, anyone can. These players deserve this for the sacrifices they make on the field and puts the responsibility for their health on them, thus absolving the league from any long term effects incurred from their game. By giving these players an outlet and incentive to care for themselves and their future, the NFL can truly be said to "care" for their players with financial support.

With these 3 easy steps, perhaps Commissioner Goodell can put out the torches the villages are carrying to the league's doorstep and preserve the future of the NFL for years to come.

[UPDATE: Given Roger Goodell's insistence on pleading innocence or at least innocence, I can no longer find a way for him to retain his job. However, that does not mean that the next commissioner shouldn't heed this advice. Please NFL, fix this game that we love so we can enjoy it without one eye closed!]

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