The media has blasted their name out there, and even added some sentiment to the mix, including various ESPN anchors crying on screen. Women’s rights groups are in uproar and all around the country parents cringe at the idea of whipping their most-prized possessions.
Who has found themselves at the center of it all? Commissioner Roger Goodell. Many ask how he could have let the situation get to this point, and how so many players could be getting off as easy as they have. I will tell you how.
It begins in 1982. He started in the NFL as an administrative intern in the league office under Pete Rozelle. A year later, he interned with the New York Jets, only return to the league office in 1984 as an assistant in Public Relations. In 1987, Goodell became the assistant to the President of one of the two major conferences in the league. He was mentored by Paul Tagliabue to fill a variety of roles in football and business operations.
In a classical “American Dream”-esque fashion, he made his way up to NFL Executive Vice President and Chief Operation Officer in December 2001. Then, in 2006 he was made commissioner by the NFL owners.
At this time, I would like to refer to a passage in “Excellent Sheep: The miseducation of the American Elite & the way to a meaningful life” by William Deresiewicz:
“Why are the best people so often mired in the middle, while nonentities become the leaders? Because what gets you up the ladder isn’t excellence; it is a talent for maneuvering. Kissing up to the people above you, kicking down to the people below you. Being smooth at cocktail parties, playing office politics picking a powerful mentor and riding his coattails until its time to stab him in the back. Not sticking your neck out for the sake of your principles – not having any principles. Being whatever other people want you to be so that…you having nothing inside you at all”
Roger Goodell embodies the flaw of bureaucracy. He has worked his way up from intern to commissioner, not by excellent but by maneuvering. Who is his powerful mentor that brought him success? You have an array of choices. Commissioner Pete Rozelle, President Lamar Hunt, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, or perhaps, all three.
He is a product of mirroring what other people want him to be.
So, I’ll tell you how the NFL has let their standards for players fall to this point. It is because the NFL is a business headed by a man that has always stood for what others want him to. The others in this case, are the NFL owners, who just want their team to win and make money. How could they possibly win and sell tickets without their star running back and Most Valuable Player of the year? Answer is they probably wouldn’t. And the owners can’t let that happen now can they? Sp, they call the man in charge, good ol’ Roger.
Goodell must give a punishment to some degree, of course, but never enough that it sends a message or ruins the profit margins for his beloved owners. He has never developed the principles for which he stands. He is never “sticking [his] neck out for the sake of [his] principles,” because he has none.
The only way for this catastrophe in the NFL to be resolved will be a leader that is not a product of bureaucracy, but a product of their own moral principles, where beating your wife or kids is not acceptable.