I’ll be 74 next month. But my health is good. So I wonder what my chances are of living long enough to see NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell do something right. ANYTHING! I’m not optimistic. The man appears to be uneducable.
Goodell may be the most overpaid employee in the lower-48. I know the NFL is operatically flush with money, thanks to patriotic fans who love pro football and pay handsomely for their enthusiasm. But Roger is being paid $35 million this year for whatever it is that he does in addition to making foolish decisions and misguided declarations. You’d think the NFL could find someone who could get everything wrong for a good deal less. Goodell’s gaudy NFL salary is more than any player makes. But those following the NFL can be forgiven for suspecting that it’s Roger who’s playing the game without a helmet.
Informed TAS readers are familiar with Roger’s many infractions. His reactions to adverse developments in his sport have ranged from pusillanimous through quirky to incoherent. Just two star-studded examples include his issuing a punishment to a player who cold-cocked his wife on film that would have been more appropriate for someone caught passing a note in study hall. Then, after this laughably light punishment for a real and egregious offense, he drops a ton of bricks in the form of a four-game suspension on one of the game’s biggest stars for an offense (if such it even is) that amounts to, well, passing a note in study hall.
Comes now a host of NFL players hamming it up on the sidelines during the playing of the National Anthem, kneeling instead of standing, holding their fists in the air, and in other ways dissing the country that so richly rewards them, and dissing the fans who pay for the financially lush lives these buffed ingrates are leading. They justify this disrespectful behavior by claiming that America is a racist country, that black Americans are oppressed, and that American cops are little more than ku-kluxers in blue who arrest and/or shoot peaceful black Americans who have committed no crime.
That this narrative is false, and the fact that young black civilian males in America have far more to fear from other young black civilian males than they do from police, is of no interest to these pampered protesters, or to the political, media, entertainment, and big-sports humbugs who encourage them in their ignorant foolery. Goodell now sails in this ship of fools with his Sunday statement to reporters that ranges from weak to downright incoherent.
The occasion was the contest Sunday between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers, the first game in the new U.S. Bank Stadium, for which Minnesota tax payers shelled out more than a half billion dollars. Addressing reporters, Goodell gave his take on his well-paid protesting employees, which protest started out with San Francisco 49ers 12th string quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, sitting during the pre-game singing of the National Anthem.
I invite readers to tease out meaning in Goodell’s patronizing, testosterone-free declaration about the antics of some of his players. He said:
“I truly respect our players wanting to speak out and change the community. We don’t live in a perfect society. We want them to use that voice. And they’re moving from protests to progress and trying to make things happen in the communities. And I admire that about our players being willing to do that.”
Goodell didn’t say what changes his protesting players wanted to see in which community and to what purpose. And no reporter asked him who it was said we live in a perfect society, or that frail human timber was capable of perfection. As for “moving from protest to progress,” not even a hint of what that might mean.
There was more:
“Obviously we want to respect people. We want to respect our differences. We want to respect our flag and our country, and our players understand that. So I think where they’re moving and how they’re moving is very productive, and we’re going to encourage that.”
For all the world this sounds like a politician saying of a hot-button issue that he feels very strongly both ways. Clearly an alarming number of NFL players do not respect their county and its flag, and either don’t understand or don’t care that the overwhelming majority of the people who finance their sport do love country and flag and are rightly offended when people disrespect either. A small but determined number of NFL players have stuck their thumbs in the eyes of 90+ percent of the NFL’s fans, and Goodell’s garbled Sunday statement, translated to plain English, was, “I’m not going to do a thing about it.”
This is no more than I would expect from Goodell, who has shown little in the way of courage or judgement in his long and highly lucrative sports career. And it’s an example of how the power in professional sports has shifted almost entirely from ownership to wildly-overpaid players, as well as to their unions and agents.
The shift has been going on for a long time. This latest sorry episode made me think of Leo Durocher, an in-your-face competitor as a player and not a non-directive counselor as a manager. Leo’s colorful career started several baseball eras ago. One of his claims to fame is he once gave Babe Ruth a black eye in a disagreement these two had. His last managing days were in the early seventies with the Chicago Cubs. But by then Leo’s time had already passed. Players were sprouting beards, bringing boom-boxes and hair-dryers into club houses, and, worst of all from the Lip’s perspective, not thinking that they needed to take managerial direction all that seriously. Leo’s lament was, “What ever happened to sit down, shut up, and listen?”
Patriotic sports fans who remember the days when sports commissioners exercised some control over their sports may well be asking, “What ever happened to KNOCK IT OFF!!?”