SBD/November 6, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Could Impose Harsh Penalty On Incognito As It Grapples With Bullying Issue

Incognito could receive an open-ended suspension, banning him from the league
Because of the nature of the language used by Dolphins G Richie Incognito in a voice message to OT Jonathan Martin, along with Incognito’s "troubled history in the league," it would not be surprising if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "were to come down hard -- if Incognito is guilty of what he’s being accused of," according to Sam Farmer of the L.A. TIMES. If the league "decides that Incognito is guilty, it’s conceivable that Goodell could impose his own open-ended suspension, banning him from the league." The NFL also is "likely to take a firmer, more decisive stance on all types of player hazing and harassment" in light of the Martin-Incognito situation. This episode "looks bad for the league, and it’s bigger than one player giving another a hard time" (LATIMES.com, 11/5). In N.Y., William Rhoden writes Goodell "must deal with Incognito." A lifetime ban "would be too harsh," but a "suspension, possibly for the rest of the season, even if the Dolphins were inclined to bring Incognito back ... seems fair." Goodell also should send "a stern message to the players that the days of hazing young players -- from making rookies pay for dinner to carrying veterans’ bags -- are over." Rhoden: "As if the NFL didn’t have enough headaches on the field and off -- concussions, drug testing, crime -- now the commissioner has to deal with bullying in the locker room" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/6).

ANOTHER PROBLEM FOR THE LEAGUE: In Utah, Doug Robinson writes the NFL, which "just settled the concussion lawsuit and is currently reeling from an injury epidemic, has one more problem on its hands." Robinson: "Does anyone smell a lawsuit coming? Or other bullying cases coming to light that serve up more feed for the talk-show set and lead to more lawsuits?" (DESERET NEWS, 11/6). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey writes of the NFL, "I see a league that can’t control what it has wrought. From a growing concussion crisis to the murder charges against Aaron Hernandez to a bullying incident that has blown up into a raging wildfire, it’s a wonder NFL commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t wearing the haunted look of the hunted. ... I see Richie Incognito’s face, and I see another black eye for a league full of them" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 11/6). In N.Y., Steve Serby writes the "last thing the NFL needs is this type of public relations nightmare." Serby: "Stand up to the bullying, NFL" (N.Y. POST, 11/6). In Detroit, Jeff Seidel writes under the header, "NFL Should Set Example, Ban All Forms Of Hazing" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 11/6). But SNY's Jonas Schwartz said, "We're going to see a big over-reaction here now and the NFL is going to crack down on this. ... Some of the harmless stuff is now going to get cracked down on" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 11/5).

NFL KEEPS PRESSING ON: The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair writes under the header, "Don't Expect Incognito Affair To Slow Down NFL Juggernaut." The NFL "finds itself where it never likes to be: In the public eye, loosely attached to an issue of pressing social concern." The NFL's normal approach to issues is "to let the weight of the league and its marketing might simply squash the matter." The league has "no shortage of excuse makers in the media." Blair: "Rest assured they will be out spinning, talking about how this ought not to stand and doing their best to paint the matter as an incident reflective of a particular locker-room culture" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/6). Meanwhile, ESPN's Danny Kanell said the issue has been "vastly overblown by the media because we're dealing with some very polarizing buzzwords when you start to talk about 'bullying,' 'hazing' and get into some racial elements with the language that was used in that voicemail" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 11/5).
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