Roger Goodell drops back, he’s looking deep. He wants to go for it all…..and BOOM, he is sacked. That scenario is pretty much what happened with today’s announcement that Judge Richard Berman overturned the NFL’s four game suspension of New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady. The overturned ruling is a huge blow for the NFL, with about the same impact of Lawrence Taylor’s hit on Joe Theismann. The decision of this ruling not only has an effect on Brady and the Patriots but is monumental for future rulings in the NFL.
The judge ruled that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell over stepped his power and unfairly ruled against Brady. While the infraction itself, deflating footballs for a better grip, was minuscule in the grand scheme of the game, it was the lying, covering up, and destruction of possible evidence that was enough to warrant a suspension. Sure there was no “smoking gun” but in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that all players agreed on to form and signed, states that for rulings in the league only circumstantial evidence is necessary. The NFL rulings are not U.S. court law rulings. They do not abide by the same rules because the players agreed to such rulings.
Yes Goodell and the league handled the entire investigation poorly. From the extended amount of time to investigate, to failure to keep information guarded. The NFL could have addressed the issue in a different way, not making it out to be such a big deal from the start. Their failure to guard the footballs properly, even the lack of knowledge on how many balls came in under weight. The NFL could have offered Brady a one game suspension for failure to cooperate. There was enough circumstanial evidence for Goodell to suspend Brady for conduct detremenetial to the league. The NFL wanted to come down hard on the Patriots because of their previous run-ins with breaking rules. And because the NFL was not properly prepared they are now facing a questionable future.
I am tired of talking about Deflategate and Brady. The Patriots always push the line when it comes to rules. They are just good at making sure there is no direct evidence. But what is concerning to me is the future of the NFL. This ruling opens up Pandoras box. Who is to say a player suspended in the future doesn’t challenge it in the courts? There is already talk about Greg Hardy suing the NFL over his suspension. The NFL and Goodell have now lost their ultimate power, which although it may have been too much, was agreed upon by the players in the CBA.
I find this situation ridiculous in the fact that the courts are telling the NFL how to run their business. The NFL, all sports leagues, even though fall under the entertainment heading, are a business. They have contracts that guide their rulings, which were agreed upon by the players, coaches, owners. Now for the fifth straight time Goodell’s decision on a suspension has been overturned. Goodell is no longer the end line for the league, which is like saying the CEO of a business can no longer have a say in how the business is run.
The more dire picture is the NFL as a whole. I talked about the future of the NFL a little over a year and a half ago and posed the question if the NFL had reached its height? (Has the NFL Jumped the Shark?) Was the NFL growing too big, too fast, without a clear goal? In fact a couple months AFTER my blog Mark Cuban made similar comments and claimed the NFL would implode within 10 years (Cuban Feels NFL Will Implode).
The NFL grew in popularity because of outside reasons, fantasy sports and gambling; nothing to do with the game itself. In fact the game itself is coming under scrutiny because of safety reasons like concussions. The NFL will in fact have another fire to put out this December when the Will Smith movie Concussion comes out and will undoubtedly bring safety in football to the forefront of national news once again. Then there is the case of relocation. Will the league allow itself to be bullied by owners, who are supposed to abide by guidelines, to move of their own free will? We have seen that the NFL’s guidelines don’t hold up in court.
The NFL is in trouble. They now have a public image that is tarnished, because of player safety. A commissoner with no authoritiave power and guidelines that don’t hold up in court. And are alienating actual fans through changing on field rules to emphasis offense and bring in the more national crowd who only cares about fantasy sports and gambling. The NFL has been spending too much time in court and too little time focused on actually improving the game. The NFL, I feel, has peaked and unless they start to put the focus back on the game itself; then they are heading into a dark time.