Here is the problem with the NFL.
It's not the overexposure, or the concussion dangers or even Tim Tebow. All that stuff can at least be partially explained away as a byproduct of becoming the world's most intriguing sport. It's not even the No Fun League policies, the Thursday night game money grab or Ray Lewis' continual involvement. Annoying sure, but not anything to lose sleep over.
No, the biggest problem with the NFL was exposed in the handling of the Ray Rice discipline. Just as it was exposed last year in their settlement sham with ex-players compensation for brain injuries. Just as it was exposed in the 2012 referee lockout.
They had a chance to be the good guy here. They had a chance to make an impact on how the country views domestic violence.
And they are NEVER the good guy. Never, ever ever. Never.
I say 'they,' talking about the league as a whole. But really, 'they' is Commissioner Roger Goodell. At this point, all off-the-field issues channel directly through Goodell, so when you hear Adolpho Birch, the NFL's senior Vice President of labor policy and government affairs, poorly explaining the decision to only suspend Ray Rice for two games for beating his fianc on ESPN's Mike and Mike, he is just a verbose mouthpiece for Goodell to spout through. I'm not sure an NFL executive can sneeze without asking the commish for permission first.
For those who missed it, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught on surveillance video in February knocking out his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in a casino elevator, and dragging her unconscious body away. A quick Google search will allow you to view the handling of an unconscious Palmer yourself (be warned, it's stomach churning), while the punch itself is reportedly caught on a video the Las Vegas police have not released. No one has disputed that report.
Many columnists and commentators have compared the length of Rice's suspension to the NFL's drug policy, which carries a standard four-game ban for a first time offense. Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is facing (on appeal) a season long suspension for two positive marijuana tests. Or, you know, a good weekend for a citizen in Colorado.
This is a fair and obvious criticism.
Since we are putting a number on it, domestic abuse should not rate as EIGHT times less serious than two failed drug tests for marijuana.
An NFL player punching out his fiancee - ON TAPE - should probably come with a sterner slap on the wrist.
But that's not even the biggest issue at stake here. I want more than a simple four or eight game ban.
I want Roger Goodell to be a decent freaking human being.
Let's look the NBA for an example. The Donald Sterling tape is leaked in April, and social media is set on fire.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver takes four days to consider his options, careful to make an informed decision in accordance with NBA bylaws.
And then he absolutely hammers Sterling to the full extent possible.
See BLEACH on 2B
Continued from 1B
Silver and the NBA didn't treat the obvious racism Sterling displayed as bad. They didn't treat it as an issue that needed to be addressed. They treated as a plague, looking to be expunged as quickly as possible.
This is how Goodell should have reacted.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (grain of salt disclaimer), one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her life. An estimated 1.3 million are the victims of assault by her partner every single year.
This isn't random muggings or gang violence. This is repeat physical abuse in a committed relationship.
We have a problem in our country.
The NFL has a reach unlike almost any other organization in America. They appeal to all ages, and dominate media unlike any other sport.
This was the time to use that reach. This was the time to take an obvious stand - the NFL will not tolerate violence off the field. It was a chance to shed some light on the issue, to promote a discussion of what we can do to change this culture.
It was a time to reward the millions of dollars and hours fans throw at them every year by making a difference off the field.
It was a time for a better human being than Roger Goodell
You may have noticed I haven't quoted Goodell in this column. I haven't given him a chance to explain or defend himself.
The reason is simple. Goodell hasn't explained or defended himself. Since coming down with the ruling, it has been all quiet from the protector of the Shield.
His silence speaks volumes.