Column: Time for Goodell to really say something
Boxing champ Floyd Mayweather Jr., who has spent some time in jail for abusing women himself, was speaking some truth when he briefly rose to embattled NLF player Ray Rice’s defense last week while promoting his latest fight.
“I think there’s a lot worse things that go on in other people’s households, also,” Mayweather said. “It’s just not caught on video.”
It didn’t take long for Mayweather’s point to be made. What went on in the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson’s household with a defenseless 4-year-old boy had to be so sickening that we can only be thankful there is no video of him wielding the wrong end of a tree branch against his son.
Surely the suddenly reclusive NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell must have understood that, even if the owners of the Vikings didn’t. They thought they could shove Peterson back on the field much the same way they bullied taxpayers into building the team a billion-dollar stadium now under construction in downtown Minneapolis.
That’s the way it’s always been done in the NFL. Don’t like something? Well, too bad. We’ll do it anyway, and odds are you will end up picking up the tab.
But the rules have changed, if ever so slightly. Instead of cheerleading the way he did for the new stadium, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton called the decision to allow Peterson to play a public embarrassment for the state and the team. Meanwhile, Radisson hotels had already pulled its sponsorship of the team, and major sponsors like Budweiser started making noises that they were getting uncomfortable with the way things were going down in the NFL.
The golden goose was being threatened, something the 32 owners who split revenues approaching $10 billion a year fear more than anything. A light went on in the middle of the night in Minnesota, and owners Zygi and Mark Wilf reversed themselves.
Peterson won’t play this week, and there’s a good chance he won’t play at all the rest of the season as he deals with child abuse charges in Texas.
“We made a mistake and we need to get this right,” Zygi Wilf said at a hastily called press conference.
The Vikings owners aren’t alone. The NFL has been doing nothing but making mistakes since the first video surfaced of Rice’s fiance Janay Palmer lying unconscious in the doorway of an Atlantic City casino elevator.
Unfortunately, as shown with how the Peterson situation was handled, it has yet to get much right.
Usually that wouldn’t matter. The league is Teflon coated, so popular that even the sight of former players punch drunk from their playing days doesn’t stop people from watching.
That’s not going to change because of the uproar over domestic violence with the airing of the Rice video. It won’t change because Peterson has been charged with felony child abuse, and pictures of his son with injuries that went way beyond a simple spanking circulate on the Internet.
Ratings in prime time were the best ever NFL opening week, and 22 million people watched San Francisco play Chicago on Sunday night, even while Goodell was absent from his planned appearance at the regular season opening of the billion dollar new stadium of the 49ers.
Men and women alike wore Rice jerseys to opening night in Baltimore despite a trade-in program to rid the stands of them. And in Minnesota, a woman wearing a Peterson jersey even brought a tree branch to carry around at a Sunday tailgate party.
Must have been a laughing it up with others while drinking their official league-sanctioned Bud Light beers. Best yet, the Halloween costume for this year already taken care of.
Through it all, Goodell remains incommunicado, waiting for the perfect storm he could have never imagined blows over before getting back to earning his $44 million a year. His job seems safe, with billionaire owners falling over themselves to offer their continued support for a commissioner that has helped nearly double the value of their franchises during his time in office.
But at a time when public leadership is needed most, Goodell is missing in action. He has had little to offer about the Rice uproar other than a few interviews that were quickly outdated and a few appointments that were quickly panned. And he hasn’t said anything publicly about Peterson.
Not a word of outrage over the injuries the boy suffered. Not a word of caution to players that even if you were brought up this way, in today’s world you don’t beat your children.
Surely Goodell has seen the pictures of the injuries suffered by Peterson’s son. It can’t be that he’s waiting for video of the star running back with tree branch raised high, like he did with Rice before finally taking some serious action.
While he’s at it, the commissioner might want to tell us why Greg Hardy played for Carolina in the first game of the season despite his July 15 conviction of assault on a female and communicating threats. Hardy was finally placed on the exempt-commissioner’s permission list Wednesday, just hours after Peterson was added.
Call a press conference. Take all questions, and try to answer them honestly.
Drop the arrogance. Display some humility.
Above all, make the millions of people who love everything about the NFL understand two simple things:
Real men don’t hit women. And they don’t beat defenseless children, either.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg