Appeals open a new can of worms for NFL’s Goodell

Spencer Chase

On Sept. 7, 2012, NFL history was made.

This piece of history wasn’t made by folks wearing full pads, nor by the coaches paid to guide them. This piece of history wasn’t even made on a football field but rather by an appeals panel that told NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to go to his room and think about what he had done.

Alright, maybe that wasn’t the exact wording.

Last week, an appeals panel ruled that the New Orleans Saints players, who had originally been suspended for their role in the “Bounty-Gate” scandal that shook NFL culture to it’s very core, could now play again.

Four men, who had to stay away from their teams and their paychecks for anywhere between three games for Scott Fujita to an entire year for Jonathan Vilma, are now free to pursue their little slice of the American Dream while Goodell reconsiders punishment.

This is huge. Landmark even. And the reason this is huge has almost nothing to do with this scandal itself. What this appeal did was show the NFL brass that they can in fact do wrong, and every once in a while the course of action will prove that to be the case. This is good for Saints fans and all the players involved, but this is great for the future of the league.

Let me just say that I actually do like Roger Goodell. I think he’s good for football and has already done a lot of good things for it. How many Pacman-ahem…”Adam”- Jones situations did he prevent because of his tough-nosed approach? That’s a question for the ages, but he’s already leaving his legacy as a commissioner that doesn’t tolerate stupidity well. If Goodell is all about “protecting the shield” of the NFL and its values, he’s done one heck of a job.


But Goodell isn’t really an angel sent to save the NFL either. I don’t like that the league seems to be trying to legislate the game to a point of creating a new flag football league. James Harrison even considered retiring to avoid being constantly fined. Was Harrison’s style of play a little over the edge? Maybe. Was he overreacting? Probably. But he wasn’t out of line in noticing the huge spike in fines that happened in 2010.

Now, Goodell is forced by the appeals committee to reconsider this one case of preposterously exaggerated suspensions. But should he stop there.

Why the lockout ended with him having this kind of power is beyond me. I have to wonder if the NFLPA happened to just miss that one in all the legal jargon. My question is, why does one man want this much power?

Does he realize the gargantuan target he’s made of himself? Any time someone doesn’t like something the NFL as a whole does, it has to be Goodell’s fault, because he seems to be the one pulling all the strings. He’s placed himself on top of some kind of very steep organizational pyramid where it’s a long ways down before he hits a second in command, if he even has one.

Granted, he’s not the only pro commissioner to find himself in this case. Almost every issue in the NBA, MLB and NHL starts and finishes with its fearless leaders in David Stern, Bud Selig and Gary Bettman.

Maybe the NFL should seriously consider a panel to dole out suspensions instead of allowing Goodell to rule with such an iron fist. The majority of punishments that will occur can be based on precedent, and for those that have no precedent, as was the case with the Saints, blow the football-shaped conch shell and assemble the NFL brain trust. Why can’t someone other than commish decide that Player A owes the league $10,000 for an illegal hit on Player B? That can’t be something only taught at commissioner school.

Point is the NFL isn’t just a league of 32 teams that gets together once a week for a little backyard catch. It’s a $9 billion global enterprise. That’s big business, and that’s way too much for one man to handle. Not to mention the referees’ collective bargaining issues and growth efforts the league is shooting for in trying to land a team in the LA market (let’s be honest, that’s about money, not history). Goodell is one man with way too much on his plate.

Maybe player conduct is one thing he could just pass up. He’s set his standards, there’s no reason someone else couldn’t continue them.