Commissioner or Dictator: Is There a Difference?

March 10, 2011
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This week’s sports illustrated cover issue stated bluntly, in fine black and white, sixteen point font, “The National Football League (NFL) commissioner is the most powerful man in sports, presiding over the most lucrative league in the world. His job right now is to stop it from all falling apart”. The NFL faces an impending lockdown for next year, and only the commissioner Roger Goodell can save the organization from imminent turmoil. He is the chosen savior of the NFL, the man who establishes justice, peace, and prosperity, and, without a doubt, the man who decides all aspects and actions of the NFL. Like Theodore Roosevelt and his “Big Stick” Policy, which dictated and intervened with foreign nations, Roger Goodell’s legacy has been marked by a policy he instituted in 2007: the NFL Personal Conduct Policy. This two-page policy gives a comprehensible outline of all the rules and guidelines the employees must adhere to in terms of conduct and punishments regarding all employees of the NFL who fail to comply with the policy. The policy was instituted with the intention of cleansing the “thug” image of the NFL and bettering the working environment of the organization.
Ever since Roger Goodell succeeded Tagliabue in 2006 as the NFL Commissioner, Goodell has imprinted his presence in the NFL organization and, ultimately, in the sports industry (Rafer 79). With his “Big Stick” equivalent to the Personal Conduct Policy, Goodell authorizes, oversees, and dictates the actions of the league in terms of punishing or mandating the players/employers of the NFL organization. Recent quarrelsome events in the NFL, the most prominent being the sexual-assault allegations brought against Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, have prompted Goodell to issue a memo highlighting the NFL’s personal conduct policy and making clear to all employees that “[they] must conduct [them]selves in a way that is responsible, that promotes the values upon which the league is based, and is lawful” (La Canfora). Based on the policy, Goodell has been portrayed by some as a regulator of professionalism and beneficiaries, but portrayed by others as a pure dictator.
Nonetheless, there has been prevalent support for Goodell’s personal conduct policy. For example, a blogger by the screen name “Heels & Helmets” exclaimed that “the goal is to ensure that everyone affiliated with the NFL represents it positively or deals with the consequences […] Goodell calls this program to maintain a positive image, ‘protecting the shield’ referring to the league’s logo. He is serious about this and has not been reluctant to discipline the NFL’s biggest stars” (Helmets 2). This blogger represents a generic supporter of Goodell’s PCP in that it does indeed pursue the maintenance of a pleasant and model image among the organization and its employees. Any obstruction by an employee including players and staff to the goal of the policy would be disciplined upon Goodell’s consent. This blogger continues on her advocacy by stating her opinion of how the policy “‘isn’t a player policy, it’s a personal conduct policy’ […] and that even owners and team personnel are held accountable for their actions because they set the example for their staff and the players’” (Helmet 2-3). So, the blogger now explains how the policy affects the entirety of the employees from the lowest rank of the food chain to the highest hot-shots such as officials (yet, somehow, the PCP doesn’t affect Goodell’s conduct). The Blogger, along with many other supporters, feels that the policy truly promotes personal integrity and character thus promoting a general welfare of the NFL as a whole.
In contrast of the supporters, challengers argue the one main, heavily debated issue of the NFL personal conduct policy – the fact that only one person controls the discipline of the players who violate it: Roger Goodell, the commissioner himself. No democratic voice in the decision, no say by the organization officials, and definitely no protest by the disciplined employee offender. This totalitarian style of Goodell in regulating the league’s disciplinary system has questioned many into wondering if Goodell has righteousness within his actions. The definition of a dictator is a leader who rules a country (in this case, the NFL) with absolute power, and this definition clearly may be applied to Goodell’s current disposition. Furthermore, Goodell possesses the authorization of sentencing or punishing an offending player such as a 4-game or indefinite suspension, “even if the offender was innocent in the eyes of the law – “innocent” meaning that there hasn’t been a final disposition of their case in a court of law” (Stradley 2). So even if an offender has not been convicted of a crime legally, Goodell has the enshrined power of chastising a player in the league (i.e. Plaxico Burress), such as a fine or suspension, before the true verdict comes out.
As shown in Figure 1, how can a commissioner have so much power in the scheme of a prestigious organization as the NFL is? It’s just as Stradley put it, “As a fan, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with Goodell being police, judge, jury and appeals court regarding player discipline. Are there no rules for what discipline is going to be other than whatever side of the bed Goodell wakes up?” (Stradley 2). Mr. Goodell has indeed proven to be the most powerful man in sports, yet he has demonstrated so in the wrong, malignant way. He has taken the honorable power of the commissioner and abused it. Stradley nails the issue on the head as she states that “Goodell clearly was concerned that the legal system didn’t punish players fast enough or hard enough […] Goodell also didn’t want to have to wait for the legal system to take its course before he effectuated league punishment”. The evident fact is – “He wants to hold the players to a higher punishment than just what the law requires” (Stradley 2). Would a fair, justified, and merciful commissioner run the NFL organization in the manner Goodell has done? Who in the right mind would choose a dictatorship, one-man army legislation over a democratic, power-balanced one? Roger Goodell, instead of worrying about inappropriate punishments for different players that for the most part may not even be justified, should be managing the players with a lenient and understanding rule and resolving other more significant issues, such as player safety and concussions, within one of the most iconic and successful sports organization in the world.

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SportsGuy411 said...
Mar. 21, 2011 at 10:49 am
This is true bro, glad to read something that i agree with
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