SBD/August 30, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Goodell's Five Years As NFL Commissioner Marked By Success, Struggles

Goodell's tenure marked with record TV ratings, criticsm from players

Thursday marks Roger Goodell's fifth anniversary as NFL Commissioner, and that it comes "at a time when Goodell is making high-profile -- and highly controversial -- decisions seems fitting," according to Judy Battista of the N.Y. TIMES. The NFL "has record-setting television ratings and rising revenues, and Goodell has put his fingerprints, as much as any of his predecessors, all over the game." His time as commissioner "has been studded with remarkable accomplishments, most recently the completion of a collective bargaining agreement that brought labor peace, and almost certainly extraordinary prosperity, to the league for the next decade." But his five years also have "included periods of intense criticism, much of it from players, as Goodell has used the blurry boundaries of the commissioner’s powers to shape everything from off-field behavior to on-field tackles." Steelers Chair Emeritus Dan Rooney said, "He’s done some things that have angered everybody, but that’s part of life." Battista notes "enhancing and expanding the NFL's reach has been a defining characteristic of Goodell’s tenure." People who have worked with Goodell contend that he is "not moved by the trappings of his job ... but cares deeply about the game and for players." That makes "particularly striking how Goodell has become a lightning rod, especially in the last two years, for those unhappy with his handling of player conduct and player safety issues." Many players, "and some fans, have been dismayed by what they consider a heavy-handed, and perhaps cynical, approach to managing the game." Browns LB Scott Fujita: "I feel like so much time and effort is poured into ‘protecting the shield’ and ‘cleaning up our game’ that we’ve lost sight of what’s good about our league. ... My hope was that player cynicism toward Goodell would have been at least partly resolved with the new CBA, but I’m afraid it might still take some time" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/30).

TOO MUCH POWER? Steelers QB and NFLPA Exec Committee member Charlie Batch believes that Goodell "had too much power when it came to disciplining players before the new collective bargaining agreement, and nothing has changed his mind." Batch: "He took it to another level when he said he was going to suspend Terrelle Pryor for five games and he wasn't even in the NFL last year. How can you do that? It's not right" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 8/30). Batch also addressed Goodell's suspension last season of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, saying, "How can you suspend someone when he's not found guilty? He chose to find a way to do that. I think he has too much leverage on his personal conduct policy because there are no rules" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 8/30).

THE GAME MUST GO ON: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick addressed the NFL's handling of the postponed Jets-Giants preseason game under the header, "No Refunds In NFL." The game at MetLife Stadium -- postponed from Saturday to last night because of Hurricane Irene -- "could not be cancelled" because the "mandatory-buy tickets were priced much too high for that." The preseason game "is not essential to the good and welfare of this area's inhabitants, nor is the NFL's integrity dependent on it being played." But it was played "because the NFL and its teams aren't about to refund anyone for extra expensive tickets to any game." Mushnick added, "Goodell is no different from that used car dealer. No refunds, not at any time, even for the sourest lemons on the lot -- and those are preseason games, must-buy, full-price preseason games" (N.Y. POST, 8/29).

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