Tag Archives: Roger Goodell

2014 – A Dream Year for Haters

As 2014 draws to a close, it is time to pause and reflect on the year that was in the world of sports. The allure of all sports, with the possible exception of tennis, is that you can expect the unexpected, but this year seemed to an abnormally large number of shocking and unexpected news stories. Most of 2014’s biggest stories, even though they involve different sports and seemingly much different circumstances, seem to have a common theme – comeuppance. From Donald Sterling to Roger Goodell to Kobe, Carmelo, and Heat fans everywhere, some of the biggest targets of sports fans’ ire have all been taken down a notch in 2014.

Though the theme is common to most of the major sports, it was by far the strongest in the NBA. First came the bombshell secret recordings of Donald Sterling, the most hated owner in all of North American sports, where he is caught telling his mistress that doesn’t want her bringing black people to games, although he apparently was ok with her sleeping with them. Sterling had long been a pariah as his legions of detractors had accused him of racist behavior and blamed him for making the Clippers the laughing stock of the NBA for decades, so when the tapes broke, he had absolutely nobody in his corner and was forced out of league, left with nothing only a real estate empire and a check for 2 billion dollars.

After Donald Sterling, the most hated group of people in the sports world are Miami Heat fans. Perhaps the most undeserving sports fans on earth, they were nevertheless suddenly blessed with a dream team four years ago when LeBron James and Chris Bosh teamed up with Dwayne Wade and subsequently went to 4 straight NBA Finals, winning two of them. Even after stealing the world’s best basketball player from Cleveland, they still didn’t bother to show up to games, and when Miami staged a remarkable last second game 6 comeback win in their first championship season, half the fans in the building didn’t even see it as they preferred to beat the traffic on the ride home. This summer, LeBron ditched the Heat and returned to Cleveland, which caused hypocritical Heat fans to rage against LeBron’s opportunism in ditching his aging team for a talented young team in his home town. That neither the Heat fans nor the Miami sports media could hide their angst only made it all the more enjoyable for all their haters.

The Lakers and the Knicks, who play in the two biggest markets, have millions of fans, but since most people do not live in New York and Los Angeles, most people outside those markets tend to resent teams from those cities who always have more money and an easier time attracting and retaining top talent. The dislike that most sports fans already have for these cities is compounded by the fact that both the Lakers and Knicks are led by two of the most polarizing players in all of basketball.

Carmelo Anthony, who along with being considered one of the most talented players in the league, has always been considered a selfish ball hog who could never take a team to a championship. Having previously forced his way out of Denver to get to New York, he resigned with the team for 120 million dollars and is now the best player on one of the worst and most dysfunctional teams in the league, only a few games ahead of the 76ers, who are not even trying to win this year.

Kobe Bryant has won 5 NBA titles but every bit as polarizing as Carmelo due to his comically giant ego, is currently wrapping up his career as the league’s highest paid player on one of the worst teams in the NBA. It is believed that Kobe’s ego and general dis-likability caused Dwight Howard to leave and big name free agents like Carmelo from joining the team. All of his haters who had to endure him winning all those championships over the years can now revel in Kobe’s misery as he curses out teammates and the GM in practice and sets the all-time record for missed shots.

Thought the NBA has been the most enjoyable league for haters, perhaps the biggest fall from grace was in the NFL, which has long been both the most successful and most arrogant of the sports leagues, and is run by the highest paid and more arrogant commissioner, Roger Goodell. Goodell, unlike the commissioners in other leagues, put himself in charge of meting out punishment for player misbehaviour. This blew up in his face when he completely botched the Ray Rice domestic abuse case, and made things worse by giving the impression that he was being less than honest about his reasoning and when he viewed the video of the assault.

On top of all of that, you can throw in the fact that the Yankees missed the playoffs, Brazil suffered one of the most epic blowout losses in the history of the World Cup, and Tiger Woods had perhaps the most disappointing season of his career. This truly was a dream year for haters.

Roger Goodell’s Troubles Are Only Just Beginning

Yesterday we received news that the DEA raided several NFL locker rooms as part of an investigation into potentially improper or illegal use of prescription drugs by NFL teams. This is very bad news for Commissioner Roger Goodell.  One of the most mystifying things in all of sports in recent years has been how Major League Baseball has received mountains of bad press and was even  subject to United States Senate hearings about the use of performance enhancing drugs by their players, yet the NFL, whose players look like Soviet era science projects, has largely escaped any negative publicity whatsoever. That is all about to change.

The contract in the leagues is downright mystifying. Bud Selig is widely condemned for turning a blind eye to PEDs after the 1994 strike as the surge in home runs and the pursuit by various players of the single season home run record sent ratings soaring. While that may well have been true, Selig and MLB would eventually make a serious effort to get drugs out of baseball. They instituted aggressive testing and punishment for the use of both steroids and HGH, and even launched their own investigations into the suppliers of drugs, which resulted in major suspensions to some of its biggest stars, such as Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez.

By contrast, the NFL is only now getting around to implementing an HGH testing program, and when players do test positive for steroids or other PEDs, they only get a 4 game suspension and are welcomed back with open arms as if nothing had ever happened. To put things in perspective, Alex Rodriguez was suspended for an entire year without ever failing a single drug test. He was suspended when MLB investigators, acting proactively, uncovered that he was a client of a PED supplier.

If you are wondering if baseball’s anti-drug efforts are working, consider that Giancarlo Stanton, who was just rewarded with a 13 year, $325 million dollar contract, led the National League in home runs this year with 37. In 1998 and 1999, Sammy Sosa hit 66 and 63 home runs respectively, but didn’t lead the league in home runs either year. As for the NFL, Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver of all time, ran a 4.7 40 yard dash as his combine in the mid-1980s. In the 2014 combine, 4 defensive ends ran a faster 40 time.

Roger Goodell has been hammered for turning a blind eye to domestic violence in the NFL. Just as it was looking like he had weathered that storm and was going to save his job, the federal investigators suddenly raided NFL locker rooms. If he thought he had it rough when media types like Bill Simmons were calling him names, just wait until he gets dragged before a Senate Committee in 2015.

Seeing is Feeling – How Video Shapes Public Opinion

Ray Rice was caught on video assaulting his fiancé and has since been cut by his team, suspended indefinitely, and become a pariah. Greg Hardy was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend in July and he is quietly playing football with the Carolina Panthers as if nothing happened. Donald Sterling, due to a number of lawsuits and allegations over the years, was widely believed to be a racist, but he managed to be an owner for 30 years with virtually no complaints from any of the players or NBA executives. But when he was caught on tape telling his girlfriend that he did not want her going to games with black people, the NBA and the general public were outraged and he was forced to sell his team.

We always knew that Ray Rice knocked out his fiancé in that elevator, which was why there was a negative reaction to the original 2 game suspension. The NFL, after listening to all the criticism over the 2 game suspension, changed its policy so that in the future, a player would receive a six game suspension for domestic abuse. Then when the second Ray Rice video was released showing us exactly what we already knew, the NFL then suspended Rice indefinitely. Many have pointed out that it seems the real reason why Rice’s suspension is so long is that he happened to be caught on tape.

Leaving aside the discussion of what would have been an appropriate punishment for Ray Rice, it is intriguing how much more outrage the public feels when they actually see the incident with their own eyes. It is important to keep in mind that this is not a case where the video clarified guilt or innocence; we always knew that Rice assaulted his fiancé in that elevator and then dragged her out like a sack of potatoes. It was seeing it that caused the outrage.

The lesson I take from all of this is not simply that people are hypocrites, but rather that people may need to something with their own eyes before they truly know their opinion of it. Maybe people should hold off on forming strong opinions on something until they have seen it with their own eyes. How many supporters of the death penalty would have the same position if they had to watch prisoners being executed? On the flipside, how many people who typically favor leniency and early parole for convicts would feel the same way if they were forced to watch the actual violent crimes that were committed?

The same people that are now outraged over Ray Rice’s original two game suspension and calling for Roger Goodell’s head never batted an eye over the years as one player after another was convicted of domestic abuse and didn’t face a single game suspension. Those stories just faded into the background just like all those nightly stories on Ebola outbreaks, civil wars, famines, and child poverty reports. We hear the stories, conceptually we agree they are terrible, and then we clean up the dishes.

Over the past year we heard stories about this group in Syria that were so violent even Al Qaeda disowned them, but collectively we just shrugged off the thousands of deaths until we saw a video of a hostage being barbarically beheaded. Now we are going to war with them. If ISIS had massacred an entire village of 10,000 people that day instead of posting the video footage of killing that journalist, they would not be the target airstrikes right now. If Greg Hardy’s assault had been videotaped instead of Ray Rice’s, Hardy would be suspended and Rice would be playing football this weekend. Seeing isn’t just believing, seeing is feeling.

Ray Rice Fiasco Highlights Widespread Phoniness in Professional Sports

Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly did we learn with the release of the video of Ray Rice hitting his fiancé in that Atlantic City elevator? We knew they were alone in the elevator. We knew that she was conscious when she stepped into the elevator. We knew that Ray Rice knocked her unconscious in the elevator. Nobody was suggesting that the woman fainted or slipped on a banana peel. Rice was after all charged with domestic abuse. Keep in mind that the original video did not show Janay Rice staggering out of the elevator clutching her face, it showed her completely motionless and unconscious on the floor.

Did people think that he merely pushed her away to ward off her violent attack? This is a person whose job it is to get violently tackled 25 times a game by 250+ pound men. Often 2-3 such men combine to tackle him, and intelligent people supposedly believed that he couldn’t withstand the onslaught from his fiancé for the 20 seconds it would have taken for the door to open? If Ray Rice’s fiancé was trying to beat him to death he could have held her off with one hand and drank a cup of hot coffee with the other without spilling a drop.

Before the second video, many sports commentators stated that Rice’s two game suspension was about right, though some publicly wondered if the penalty might have even been too harsh. Adam Schefter even posed the unfortunate question of whether the NFL was “lenient enough”. Now that the second video has been released the media is coming at the NFL and Roger Goodell with torches and pitchforks. It’s as if sports commentators had no idea that knocking a woman unconscious could look so distasteful until they saw that second video.

The reality is that members of the sports media, like most human beings, still have an instinct to stick with the herd. When the critical mass of public opinion began reacting with outrage to the second video, everyone sprinted off the front of the mob. The Ravens organization, which had the cluelessness to tweet about Janay Rice accepting her responsibility for the incident, promptly cut Rice and all the commentators who were once so quick to move on to the next story were all over the TV and radio voicing their outrage.

This is much the same as what happened with Donald Sterling. For years people had accused Sterling of discriminating against minorities and actually settled a huge lawsuit related to housing discrimination. Despite Sterling’s reputation, he carried on as an owner for decades and even had the league block a trade of Chris Paul to his team’s biggest rival, thus allowing Sterling to make his own trade for Paul. But when social media exploded over the leak of tape where he was caught telling his mistress he didn’t want her going to games with black people, everyone in the sports world was suddenly outraged and Sterling was forced from the league.

The phoniest people of all in this story is the top brass of the NFL, particularly Roger Goodell himself. In the span of just a few weeks he has adjusted his position on domestic abuse three times. First he felt a two game suspension for knocking your fiancé unconscious was sufficient. Then when many people voiced their anger that two games for domestic abuse was woefully inadequate given he had just suspended someone a year for smoking marijuana, he told us that he had reconsidered and that in the future players would get a 6 game suspension for domestic abuse but that they would not change Ray Rice’s original suspension. Then when everybody went crazy over the second video, he changed his mind again and said that Rice would be suspended indefinitely. Some might argue that this is uncharted territory for the NFL and they have now learned their lesson on the seriousness of domestic violence. That argument might hold some water if not for the fact that the most famous murder trial in the country’s history involved a star running back who abused his wife.