December 20th, 2014
Poor (salary $44 million) NFL Commissioner Goodell. He has been castigated for his inconsistency of applying standards across teams and individual players, plagued by accusations that team owners interfered with criminal investigations, and hounded, and eventually reversed, by critics for overstepping his authority when leveling draconian punishment against domestic abuser Ray Rice. His incomplete response to the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal was to mandate a lame 1 hour “education session” held in each team’s locker room about respect. Half-ass solutions seem to be the NFL’s history.
In the aftermath of a spate of domestic violence incidents by NFL players and the assembly of a team of external experts in DV prevention comes a new NFL Personal Conduct Policy.
As the expert called in to assist Jonathan Martin’s legal team and to advise Ted Wells, the NFL’s investigator of the abuse levied by three of Martin’s teammates, I heard repeatedly the NFL mantra of “Protect the Shield.” The NFL logo is a shield of sorts and everyone affiliated with the NFL knows that the league of owners takes extraordinary steps to protect its commercial brand, often at the expense of its players without whom there would be no league.
Guided by the “Protect the Shield” principle, NFL commissioners and executives historically ignore player safety for the sake of the game. Witness tthe 2014 settlement of the lawsuit with thousands of former player-plaintiffs accusing the NFL of ignoring known neurological health hazards to which they were exposed causing them to suffer CTE. The settlement temporarily silenced complainants and allowed the NFL to roll into the 2014 season without the cloud of litigation overhead.