Thursday, October 9, 2014

NFL commissioner thinks adhering to due process undermines the integrity of the game

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell put on a 40-minute presentation cobbled together by the league with the help of a group of outside advisers (I shudder thinking about the size of the invoice those outside advisers are going to submit). The stated goal was to educate everyone in the NFL about the dangers of spousal abuse, child abuse, sexual assault and other domestic violence topics.

But what Roger Goodell ended up teaching was something very different. Goodell made the following startling comment: “But you’re trying to balance the due process with making sure you’re protecting the integrity of the game. My No. 1 job is protecting the integrity of the game, and I will not relent on that.”

Come again, Mr. Commissioner? Insuring that players accused of serious misconduct are afforded due process is somehow at odds with the "integrity of the game"?

Down the rabbit hole we tumble.

Kowtowing to a mob mentality to get "tough" on offenses against women by punishing players on the basis of a mere accusation without the opportunity for a fair hearing doesn't give your sport "integrity," Mr. Commissioner. Just the opposite. It makes it look like you are kowtowing to a mob mentality to get "tough" on offenses against women -- and that, surely, undermines "the integrity of the game."

Professional football games are governed by all manner of rules, some of which are very complicated, to insure fairness. At every game, there are seven officials on the field, not to mention the "replay assistant" off the field, who are watching every play to insure fidelity to these rules.

I am certain Mr. Goodell doesn't think that adherence to these rules is somehow a hindrance that undermines integrity to the game. In fact, it is inarguable that the absence of rules to insure fairness in the way games are played would undermine "integrity of the game." If fans didn't think the games were played fairly, the NFL soon would be out of business.

So, when it comes to matters off the field, exactly how does kicking due process to the curb protect the "integrity" of the game, Mr. Commissioner? When did insuring fairness in your decisions about players become such a hindrance to you?

Taking sexual assault and domestic violence seriously is a noble impulse. But we don't take them seriously without insuring that the truth about every allegation is fairly aired. Your fan base needs to have confidence that the NFL is fair not only on the field but off as well.

An accusation should never be tantamount to a finding of guilt, and rushing to judgment doesn't give your sport "integrity." It makes it unfair -- something NFL fans simply don't tolerate.