SBD/Issue 238/NFL Season Preview

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Has Busy First Year

Goodell Discusses Issues Facing
NFL On "Costas Now" Interview
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was interviewed by Bob Costas last night on HBO’s “Costas Now.” Costas asked, “We understand that what [Michael] Vick did was reprehensible. On the other hand, Leonard Little was involved in a vehicular homicide. Got an eight game suspension. Did 90 days in jail. Community service. He’s playing. Ray Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Fined a quarter of a million dollars, didn’t miss a single game. Is there something disproportionate here?” Goodell: “First off, I was not commissioner at the time. ... [But Leonard’s suspension is] a significant penalty in the [NFL]. I’m not justifying it, I just believe that we have to look at each of these cases individually.”  Costas noted Goodell recently issued new guidelines on treatment of players that receive concussions during games and asked, “Super Bowl, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning knocked woozy in the first quarter, unconscious for a while, comes to and says, ‘Coach, I’m ready to go.’ The coach is torn.” Goodell: “The most important thing that you said in there is that the coach has to make the determination. That’s not correct. The doctor is going to make this decision." Goodell said he and NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw have discussed making players who have tested positive for drugs ineligible for the Pro Bowl and post season awards, and said, “We are going to make that change going forward.” Additionally, Goodell discussed retired player benefits, and Costas also spoke with NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw and others regarding the issue.  See tomorrow's issue of THE DAILY for that story ("Costas Now," HBO, 9/5). 

MORE FROM GOODELL: Goodell indicated that he has “no knowledge that any other NFL personnel are involved in an Internet drug operation being investigated” by the Albany (NY) District Attorney's office. Goodell: "We have been in touch with them for several months now, working with them, and we have responded, reacted and dealt with all of these issues." The investigation led to this week’s suspensions of Patriots S Rodney Harrison and Cowboys assistant Wade Wilson, both of whom admitted to using HGH (AP, 9/5).  Goodell, in an interview earlier this week with ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, said it bothers him that he is perceived as the “heavy-handed commissioner.”   Goodell: “I certainly don’t rule the roost at home, and it’s hard for people to understand that.” Goodell: “It’s one of the reasons I’ve gone out to our clubs to meet with our players because I think there is a misperception of how I approach this job. I think that’s valuable to me” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 9/4).

HOW HE'S PERCEIVED: Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard said of Goodell, “I perceive him as a headhunter, a pelt collector.” But ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said, “I think he understands the value of public relations. He’s going around and he’s going to say to the players, ‘Look, I’m making this a better league for everybody who’s in it by getting rid of people for a brief time – not forever – ... who don’t belong in it and don’t understand it’s a privilege to be in it” (“PTI,” ESPN, 9/5). In S.F., Gwen Knapp wonders if Goodell is “visionary, reactionary or the jock world’s Wyatt Earp-meets- Potter Stewart.” He has “smudged the boundaries between on- and off-duty activity, and the distinction between arrest and conviction. ... It’s a risky job” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/6). In Ft. Worth, Randy Galloway writes under the header, “Goodell Doesn’t Back Off Message, Regardless.” Galloway: “Goodell totally overreacted by giving Wilson a five-game suspension, plus a $100,00 fine” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/6). 

Suggs Says Goodell's Conduct
Policy Has Attention Of Players
FIRST YEAR REVIEW: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Daniel Kaplan writes Goodell’s “sharp crackdown on player conduct, unceremonious sacking of the stumbling China preseason game and flailing NFL Europa, were all hallmarks of a first year focused obsessively on protecting the NFL’s image and reputation.” He has received “high marks for soliciting more feedback from owners than Tagliabue had” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/3 issue). In DC, Mark Maske writes Goodell's “resolute action [on player conduct] is drawing praise" from the owners.  Patriots Owner Robert Kraft: “Roger has set a tone that the vast majority of owners approve of.” Ravens DE Terrell Suggs: “He definitely got all of our attention. We’re being more careful than we’ve been.” But Suggs and other players are “wary that the conduct policy ... might give too much power to Goodell.” Maske notes Goodell “ultimately will be judged by the owners just as [Tagliabue and Pete Rozelle] were judged: How much money does he make for them?” (WASHINGTON POST, 9/2). ESPN's Len Pasquarelli: "Never is heard a discouraging word about Roger Goodell. He's got the confidence in the players, and that's huge. The players like the fact that Roger has upheld the integrity of this league and is really focused on that more so than anything else so far" (ESPNews, 9/5).  In Philadelphia, Ashley Fox wrote under the header, “Year 1 Tough For Goodell.” Fox: “When Goodell took over a year ago, his slate was relatively clean. There was labor peace. There was a gob of money from the network deals." But player conduct "became the issue of the year. Although Goodell gets an ‘incomplete’ on the issue -- it is way too early to know whether his harsh new conduct policy will dissuade bad behavior -- he gets an ‘A’ for effort” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/2). 

NOTHING STICKS TO TEFLON: In N.Y., Gary Myers wrote under the header, “Bad Behavior Tainting NFL’s Image.” But Sportscorp President Marc Ganis said, “There has not been much negative impact [from the off-the-field issues], certainly not much long-term negative impact. The perception is the NFL is being proactive and actually dealing with societal problems that are impossible to deal with and taking stronger action than even law enforcement.” Myers wrote the NFLPA “has been riding shotgun with Goodell,” as the union “wants to get rid of the players who have been dragging everybody else down as much as Goodell does" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/5). In Toronto, Stephen Brunt writes the NFL “rolls through the muck and mire and nothing sticks to its shiny surface.” NFL consumers “are more than happy to accept performance-enhancing drugs as an integral, if slightly tawdry, part of the business.” And it is “no stretch to argue that the Vick scandal might in the end strengthen the NFL’s brand.” Goodell “decisively throws Vick over the side, without a hint of protest from the tame players union, and is hailed as a moral crusader,” and other issues like steroid use “are lost in the hoopla as another season begins and the cash flows in like the tide” (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 9/6).  In DC, Michael Wilbon wrote, “Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether a star quarterback is headed to a federal penitentiary, or whether the clean-cut defensive back with all the championship rings admits to taking human growth hormone. The arrests, the suspensions, the missteps are mostly forgotten -- if not forgiven -- as long as teams kick it off the week after Labor Day. Nothing in sports seduces Americans the way the [NFL] does” (WASHINGTON POST, 9/5).

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