It’s Hard to Trust Roger Goodell

When it comes to punishment, NFL commissioner ignores precedent in order to pander.

Roger Goodell

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, during happier times.

I once met and interviewed Adrian Peterson.

He greeted me, as he does everyone, with a vice-grip handshake that stuns you to your core, a handshake that I found extremely peculiar. A firm handshake is what most men do. But this was ridiculous. It was as if Peterson was out to exert and display his power for no particular reason at all other than to exert and display that he was stronger than you. And it was like he didn’t want you to forget it.

With that story, I make a rather lengthy, but pertinent leap to his case of child abuse. Adrian Peterson whupped up on his 4-year-old boy, perhaps as a form of backwater punishment, but certainly as an exertion of power.  After reading about this case and seeing the photos of a bruised 4-year-old, I come to the conclusion that Peterson is a loathsome and contemptible man.

But this is not just a story about a bad human being. It’s a story of how the National Football League has turned into a joke when it comes to governing their employees. Their punishment of Adrian Peterson for the rest of the NFL’s regular season may pass a moral test, but it’s another ass-backward attempt to gain public trust by manipulating rules and regulations solely upon the whims of an empty suit named Roger Goodell.

Collective Bargaining Matters

Until the Ray Rice incident — on which Goodell whiffed like a 3-year-old playing whiffle ball in the backyard — punishment for NFL players had been meted out through a personal conduct policy in the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Collective bargaining is an essential element of American anti-trust law, because it provides equal footing for opposing parties in labor agreements.

Players can be suspended when they violate the league’s personal conduct policy, but that policy had been vaguely worded and allowed to be interpreted by the commissioner himself. Precedent in all matters of criminal activity involving players in the NFL has been for the league to wait until the matter had been resolved in the court system. The NFL’s punishment, therefore, would somewhat mirror the punishment meted out in court. It is why Ray Rice originally was only given a two-game suspension. No punishable charges ever stuck to Rice in the Atlantic County Court system. And besides, Goodell has Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bischotti, a personal friend, whispering in his ear to yield a favorable result on Rice.

Then a videotape became public, revealing Rice as some kind of barbarian and Goodell as an incompetent fool. The commissioner has tried to make up for that by revising the league’s personal conduct policy without official acceptance via a legitimate collective process — a process that extended all the way to Peterson.

After some early confusion, Peterson was placed on the commissioner’s “exempt” list, which is simply a way for the league to avoid litigation because they are paying the player his full salary as they keep him off the field. And now that the court has finished with Peterson — he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor — Goodell has arbitrarily suspended him without pay at least for the rest of the season. It’s just another phony way for this commissioner to show his paying public that he’s protecting them.

The problem is that Goodell is on horribly shaky legal ground here. Even his new personal conduct policy doesn’t speak to child abuse. Precedent from previous cases supports Adrian Peterson’s gaining re-entry into the league. The court system spoke. Collective bargaining is supposed to mean something, whether the moral compass supports it or not.

While I couldn’t give a flip about Adrian Peterson personally, there is something about this process that bothers me. I dislike this commissioner and I don’t trust him.

The Minnesota Vikings are hopelessly out of the playoff race. They don’t really need Adrian Peterson back in the lineup, and had Goodell approved his re-entry to the league, Viking owners Ziggy and Mark Wilf, would have been put in a spot. Vikings fans probably didn’t even want Peterson back — not with the glow of his heinous acts still bright. Is it that hard to imagine Goodell stepping in to spare the Wilfs some agony, while making the league look tough on personal conduct in the process?

Mike Missanelli is on 97.5 FM The Fanatic every week day from 2 to 6 p.m. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMiss975.