Can Roger Goodell Change Football?

This post was originally posted on The Good Men Project which you can check out here!

Months ago when the video showing Ray Rice physically assaulting his then fiancé Janay Palmer, Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, was instantly under fire for failing to have established a solid domestic abuse punishment policy for NFL players.

Ray Rice received a minor punishment of suspension from two games. Advocates, including myself, wondered if Goodell was not taking enough action. The NFL has fostered a damaging culture that it finally had to address.

In a response immediately following the incident Goodell stated, “we will get our house in order.” Adding: “There are things we need to clean up in our house.” Many worried this would simply be a statement to sweep it under the big NFL rug.

Then in September when a second video surfaced of the Rice incident, this one more horrifying then the first, showed Rice punching Palmer. Goodell claimed that he had not seen this video, nor had anyone else in the league. And the world called bullshit. A surprising person publically stating that knowledge of the second video was previously known was Janay Palmer, now Janay Rice.

Not only was Goodell being personally questioned but also the NFL itself has been dealing with numerous “PR nightmares” since the incident. One striking example is the photo-shopped version of a Cover Girl’s advertisement. Cover Girl has paired with the NFL as an official beauty partner. When they revealed a new ad this fall season it didn’t take long until the photo was altered:

Goodell article - GMP ad

Despite ALL of this, it appears the NFL is attempting to address some of these issues, slowly but surely.

After the months of controversy, yesterday morning Roger Goodell, a finalist for TIME’s person of the year, announced a new personal conduct policy. Referring to the previous policy Goodell admitted, “I blew it.” He went on to say that, “our penalties didn’t fit the crimes.”

In an interview on the Today Show, Wall Street Journal reporter Monica Langley discussed her time spent with Goodell. She followed him around for weeks as he worked to roll out new policies. Langley said of Goodell, “I started with a few weeks ago, and he literally knew very little about domestic violence and the complexity of the issues. And I have to say now he’s about to put in place one of the toughest personal conduct policies for domestic violence in corporate America.”

So what is Goodell proposing?

Many changes will come with the new policy, for both players and victims of offenses by the players.

First there would be an increased minimum penalty for domestic violence to a six game suspension.

Second, a huge part of the plan would be a required education program for all players. The NFL would also start giving the National Domestic Violence Hotline of Austin, Texas an annual donation of $5 million dollars. Previously solely Goodell’s responsibility to oversee punishment the NFL will now “hire a special counsel to oversee punishment.” The NFL also plans to expand services for the victims, families and the violators of said assault.

The policy also offers a leave with pay program for players charged with a crime.

These are all positive moves and at least continue the conversation of what it means to be an NFL player and an abuser.

NFL owners have unanimously approved the new policy, which, according to ESPN, will take effect immediately.

There are many more hoops for Goodell to jump through. Hopefully he doesn’t get tired before he’s jumped through them all. While some believe the policy is an encouraging move, the ability for Goodell to follow through is still in question. Nita Chaudhary, founder of the women’s group UltraViolet stated that, “while the policy itself may be a step in the right direction, leadership matters, and Roger Goodell is no leader.”

If plans keep moving forward, Goodell could help be responsible for a shift in masculinity and a lesson to football lovers everywhere that being a professional athlete does not excuse violence, a concept many will not let go of.

Goodell stated  something on Wednesday that he has been quoted saying many times recently:

“Being a part of the NFL is a privilege. It is not a right. The measures adopted today uphold that principle.”

I agree and I hope others will too.


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