Roger Goodell’s Defining Moment
Dear Commissioner Goodell,
I have to hand it to you. You are 3 weeks shy of finishing your first full year as the Commissioner of the National Football League, and you have easily cemented yourself as my favorite sports commissioner of all time with your zero tolerance, strong arm approach, which isn’t difficult since I tend to dislike most any commissioner of any sport. Although, Bud Selig is doing some things that make me smile from time to time.
The new conduct policy that punishes everyone from the player to the mailroom clerk is a thing of beauty. Players seem to be sitting up and taking notice, watching what they do and with whom they choose to keep company. The Pacman Jones suspension was nothing short of spectacular. I thought the Tank Johnson suspension was a bit late, but at least you didn’t make any idle threats. The fact that the Cincinnati Bengals can still field a team is a miracle in and of itself, but they’re getting by. Some people in the media are saying that the intent of the new conduct policy is to penalize those players who are repeat offenders. However, I thought your intent with the policy was to penalize those players and franchises whose conduct casts a negative light on the League.
So yesterday, oh yesterday, Mr. Commissioner, the best opportunity of your career landed on your door step in the form of a 19 page Federal Grand Jury Indictment. Michael Vick, quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons and former #1 overall draft pick, has been charged with competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting and conducting the enterprise across state lines. The indictment is graphic and quite frankly turned my stomach when I read it as it should with any human being. Dogs are living creatures, and these dogs were perfectly normal loving dogs before they were trained to fight to the death. Whoever is responsible for these acts deserves whatever is coming to them, and if Michael Vick is guilty, I’ll grant you, playing football should be the least of his worries.
Here’s the thing Mr. Commissioner. You can choose to let the legal system decide Michael Vick’s guilt or innocence (They did so well on that OJ Simpson case, why not leave it up to them.) or you can stand up for what is right and enforce what you said you would enforce…the need for proper conduct by NFL employees from the top down. Say Michael Vick is innocent, if these are the kind of people he allows to live on his property, he’s not keeping very good company, which is one of the things you reportedly stress when you speak to players about their off the field infractions. Also consider that while this may be the first time Michael Vick has been charged with anything, it’s not the first time he’s done something with negative consequences. Case in point, you fined him during the 2006 season for using an obscene gesture towards the fans while exiting a stadium.
You’re not alone in this situation though. The Atlanta Falcons Franchise has some thinking to do as well. Just a thought, but Humane Society and PETA picket lines outside of Falcon games could get old around the 3rd game of the season and losing corporate sponsorships could affect the Franchise and the League in the long run. Federal Grand Juries don’t typically indict someone over 19 pages of narrative without at least probable cause and viable evidence. So, given your options Mr. Commissioner, I’d stand up for what is right and prove the point you’ve been trying to make the last 11 months: conduct unbecoming the League’s definition of an NFL player will not be tolerated. The decision is yours, but keep in mind that this decision may very well define your entire career.