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Media Beheading of NFL Out of Touch

One CNN anchor turned to the other last night and said, “how does Roger Goodell still have a job?”

The answer from the other, “the NFL is in big trouble.”

The NFL is in big trouble?  According to whom?  Not the consumer.  An NBC/Marist Poll out last night indicates that an overwhelming 90% of Americans polled say their viewing habits of the NFL won’t change at all because of the recent events involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and others.

The same poll indicated that despite the one-sided public media lynching of Roger Goodell, more Americans think he should keep his job than be fired.  Forty-three percent of the respondents said Goodell should remain commissioner while just 29% said he shouldn’t.

Sadly for the media mob intent on firing everybody, most consumers don’t agree and most businesses don’t operate that way.  While it may seem obvious to some that a head or two must role when a mistake is made, that view usually comes from the perspective of inexperience.

What many outraged media executioners don’t understand because in most cases they’ve never been asked to manage anybody but themselves is that firing a loyal earner for a mistake or two no matter how big is an option of last resort, not first.

By most accounts, Roger Goodell is an earner.  NFL revenue keeps increasing, franchise values keep going higher, and the new CBA with the players was a negotiating success for the league.  The notion that a monkey could do Goodell’s job because after all, the NFL prints money without even trying, might be true.  It also might not be true.

What is true is that most of us don’t have enough information to make any definitive declarations about Goodell or his job.  There are things we see like Spygate, Bountygate, Vick, PacMan, and 18-game wishes but most of what Goodell does is never seen by anyone except for those that employ and work with him.

We don’t have a clue what his day to day responsibilities are and we have limited information on whether or not he handles those responsibilities effectively or not.  His employers know.  We don’t.

Joining the blood-thirsty media mob at Goodell’s door is the media and cause celeb battle cry right now.  It’s the typical response from those who are rarely asked in their own lives to solve a problem.  Asking for a beheading in the midst of a crisis may seem provocative to an MSNBC show host but at its core, it’s whiny.  The demand for answers and the assignment of blame can wait for a few NFL stabs at a solution.

When Hurricane Katrina crushed New Orleans it was repulsive to watch media anchors and pundits pleading with officials for names to blame while those same officials were dropping water and food to stranded families on rooftops.  There’s plenty of time for blame and perhaps a Goodell execution, especially if he lied about seeing the elevator video.  For now however, let a league that has some pretty sharp people take the first shot at fixing the problem.

While the media blamers have spent most of their time begging for scalps, the NFL actually has been doing some work.  It’s barely been noticed but shouldn’t Goodell and the league get some credit for the implementation of a new domestic violence policy?

We all know that Goodell messed up by giving Ray Rice two games initially because he acknowledged the mistake and took personal responsibility saying in a letter to all NFL owners, “I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better.”

But since that mess-up, he and the league have done more than they’re getting credit for.  The most severe penalties for domestic violence in any sport now exist in the NFL.

That new policy rolled out in late August includes an automatic 6-game suspension for a first-time offense with a longer suspension if the facts indicate violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or violence against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child.  For a second offense, it’s banishment from the NFL.

Goodell also ordered an independent investigation which will be led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller III.  Of course the media mob will say this is so obviously not independent because Mueller worked for a law firm with ties to the NFL but Mueller’s reputation for independence is impeccable.

Mueller is a former United States attorney, a senior U.S. Justice Department official, and one of the most respected FBI directors in history.  There isn’t one person who’s been asked about him since his designation to this NFL investigation that doesn’t speak about him in terms of having an untouchable level of high integrity.

A new domestic violence policy and an independent investigation of the Rice situation seems to have made no difference to an hysterical media intent on seeing Goodell pay with his job and the league be labeled as some sort of NCAA program that’s lost institutional control.

In a clever sleight of hand trick, the media blamers divert your attention away from the NFL’s substantive responses to the crisis and turn you towards the motives behind the responses.  It’s all about why they laid out a plan for more severe penalties rather than the action itself.

The why in this case is the league only came up with tougher penalties because they were bowing to public criticism and pressure.   That may be true but does it nullify completely the action itself?

See, if the blamers acknowledge that the league actually has been taking substantive action, then the blame game festival stops.  So the move is to question the motives for the action rather than give credit for trying to fix the problem.

Motives can be revealing but actions speak loudest.  Roger Goodell and the NFL haven’t been rendered impotent by the media mob screaming for heads on a platter.  It may seem that way but they’ve implemented tougher penalties for domestic violence and will likely do the same with child abuse.

Football fans understand something many in the media don’t.  They recognize that the Rice and Peterson cases don’t speak for an entire league.

Most NFL players are actually decent citizens.  And while fans recognize that some players are young, aggressive, entitled, wealthy, and lack in personal courtesy and common decency, that knowledge isn’t going to change the way they consume the sport.

The latest NBC/Marist poll reflects that.  Fans want their football diversion regardless of these recent events.  With that said, they’d probably prefer that the league work harder to outlaw some of the recent unacceptable behavior.  Most recognize the difference between the occasional bad boy pot smoker and the girlfriend beater.

But they don’t believe the portrait painted by a frenzied media the last few weeks that attempts to dupe viewers, listeners, and readers into thinking that the NFL is a league that actually endorses the beating of women and children.  That’s too much reach for reasonable.

The NFL did indeed make a mistake by not being tougher in these cases before.  The initial 2-game suspension of Ray Rice was far too light.  Learning from those mistakes and acting on them can become good measure regardless of the motive.

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