I’m with Karl Rove, at least on this: Condoleezza Rice should replace Roger Goodell as head of the National Football League. Goodell has been a toady for the owners, who get fat profits from leaving the game just where it is. Despite lip service to the contrary, they have accepted barbaric behavior from the players on and off the field.
The PBS documentary League of Denial showed the conspiracy of silence and cover-up of the lifelong brain damage to players from repeated concussions. And off the field, events of the last weeks – think Ray Rice of the Ravens, Adrian Peterson of the Vikings, Greg Hardy of the Panthers, Ray McDonald of the 49ers – show domestic violence is a way of life for some players, and enabling them (as long as they perform well on the field) is a way of life for team owners.
Rice (Condoleezza), the former Secretary of State, is a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan, who has always said being NFL commissioner would be her dream job. Unless she were gelded from the get-go by those who appointed her, I think she could demonstrate more testicular fortitude than the incumbent. She’s strong, capable, knows the game, and could negotiate the shoals among owners and players alike, committed to doing what’s best for the game and the humans involved. Female fans are the hot demographic for the NFL. Eighty-five percent of abuse victims are female, according to studies reported in the Wall St. Journal. Who better to succeed Goodell that a powerful, smart, capable, female African-American football aficionado?
Yet even a change of commissioners is not enough. Congress has demonstrated its unwillingness to deal responsibly with a host of pressing issues. But the expected do-nothing lame duck session coming up could be an opportunity for them to revisit the laughable, sweetheart non-profit tax exemption the NFL enjoys. It might even bring together tax hawks and doves. Congressional action that could hurt their pocketbooks is one thing that could get the owners’ attention.
Losing sponsorships would also send a clear message. Radisson hotels just pulled out from the Minnesota Vikings in the wake of Adrian Peterson’s child abuse scandal. Wouldn’t it be nice if other corporate interests stepped out of their luxury boxes and followed suit?
The fans also have to play their part, indicating their ire or at least not buying team gear and wearing jerseys of their favorite wife beaters or child abusers. Female fans in Baltimore last week sporting Ray Rice jerseys were especially nauseating. As Charlie Pierce said on Bill Littlefield’s Only a Game, “there is virtually no limit to American hypocrisy when we want to be entertained.”
The Patriots won big Sunday, and that was satisfying. But I wish Bob Kraft had been a more stand-up guy for the values that his late wife, Myra, championed. Something is rotten with NFL football. Whether the Patriots, Vikings, Packers or Jets, I kept wondering which players, under all that gear, were going home to beat up their wives and girlfriends. Or maybe abuse their kids. Globe columnist Joanna Weiss writes about the need to change the culture accepting domestic abuse and how even a zero-tolerance policy is “just not enough.” Probably so, but at least it would be Step One.
I welcome your comments in the section below.