Commissioner Roger Goodell and his NFL owners voted in a new conduct policy for players earlier this month, and in doing so, Goodell made this clear:
The NFL is more worthy to judge the severity of an offense than America’s legal system, and the league will be handing down suspensions and taking away players’ money with no regard for what might happen eventually in a court room.
This display of pomposity received applause (for the most part) from the NFL’s well-trained national media and the league’s enormous fan base.
The support for Goodell and the NFL on this drives me crazy, because I’m still one of those old-fashioned folks who thinks that due process is a good thing.
If you don’t believe in it, look what happened to Todd Hoffner, the Minnesota State Mankato football coach, and the two years in Hades that he went through after some school administrators looked at a home video on his cell phone and had a mass psychotic breakdown.
Hoffner’s back, he took his team to the national championship game, but even the game story from a stringer that we ran in the Star Tribune on Saturday’s 13-0 loss to Colorado State-Pueblo included details of the two years of torture that Hoffner and his family went through.
Ah, but what the heck, why give any benefit of the doubt to the accused when you have people with the wisdom of an NFL commissioner or a college bureaucrat to override the courts?
This is one buzz word that causes me to slap myself upside the head, when hearing or reading praise for Goodell and his over-the-top disciplinary actions – specifically, in the Adrian Peterson case:
It’s a “privilege’’ to play in the NFL.
And with the privilege theory, comes this:
Goodell is on a righteous path in holding players to a higher standard than many employees – and for sure, most union members – are held when it comes to being able to go to work as the legal process plays out.
The claim that playing in the NFL is a “privilege’’ is at the top of the chart when it comes to hogwash.
There are tougher jobs, yes. There is combat, there is on-the-street or on-the-highway law enforcement, there is fighting fires, and there is responding to medical emergencies. I’d also put caring for the sick and elderly on that list of toughest jobs.
But to be an NFL player, to go through the struggle and training to make it to the highest level, and to get the stuffing kicked out of you 18, 20 times a year, and to have a huge risk of injury with no job protection when it happens, and to know that in the unlikely event you make it to old age, it’s going to be with titanium hips and ruined knees and shoulders and trying to remember your grandkids names … this is a privilege?
Yeah, five percent of NFLers will leave the game at 35 or older with a healthy bank account. Meantime, 75 percent will be gone at 25 or 26, facing a life in the day-to-day workforce, like the rest of us.
Playing in the NFL is not a privilege. It is one of the toughest jobs to get and maintain, and one of the most-demanding and dangerous to perform.
Give me a new argument for Goodell holding the players to a higher standard, because “it’s a privilege’’ doesn’t cut it.
FOOTE-NOTE: I got worked up over this “privilege’’ nonsense again on Sunday night, hearing the radio announcers for the Seattle-Arizona game say in the first half that veteran linebacker Larry Foote had been on the field for all but one defensive snap this season for the Cardinals.
The announcers also mentioned that Foote had missed the 2013 season with Pittsburgh due to a ruptured bicep. The suggestion was Pittsburgh figured Foote was “washed up’’ as a player and let him go.
I looked it up, and my suspicions were confirmed: Larry Foote, a great Steeler for 11 of his 12 NFL seasons, was signed to a new three-year contract in March 2013. He received $1 million as a bonus, with annual salaries of $1.5 million through 2015.
Then, he was hurt. The Steelers’ response: “See ya, Larry. That $3 million still on the table … that’s gone, Larry, no matter the quantity of blood and torn muscles you gave to us.’’
Foote wound up taking $953,000 on a one-year deal from Arizona. Get hurt, take almost a 40 percent pay cut at age 34, and give every ounce of yourself again to the Cardinals’ defense.
People who label this as a “privilege’’ are ridiculous, at best.