Roger Goodell, by his admission, is responsible for the NFL's disastrous handling of the issue of domestic violence. It's an issue that's 1,000 times more important than the NFL, as he has only come to learn in the past few weeks.
Domestic violence doesn't show up in profit margins. It doesn't come up in sponsorship negotiations. At least it didn't used to. Now it does, and the NFL is in a desperate and very public scramble to catch up.
Let's be clear. The players who are facing repugnant abuse charges are the ones responsible for getting the league into this sordid mess, which is an affront on every conceivable level, not the least of which is minimizing domestic violence victims out there not empowered by the spotlight for support. Those victims remain in the dark, left to believe that if high-profile abuse cases aren't dealt with justly then how in the hell are their voices supposed to be heard?
It's NFL players who raise fists against vulnerable victims in the ultimate act of cowardice who are responsible for continuing the cycle of domestic violence. The legal system will and should take it from there.
Now, in the highest profile sport in America, it's Goodell who has kept that cycle of domestic abuse going. No amount of mea culpa will change that. Especially not one that came entirely too late, and leaves us with more questions as the league's footsteps are retraced.
A lack of action in the face of domestic abuse. Lack of honesty in rooting it out. Inconsistent punitive approaches to solutions, and an entire process that leaves victims as the ones under scrutiny.
The NFL has been the face of that process over the past few months.
Goodell's presser on Friday, for which he was late, which itself demonstrates his lack of commitment, gave that stumbling face an even worse voice.
The public relations Band-Aids were there. A new conduct committee. Outreach to domestic violence advocacy groups. Women's voices now in leadership roles.
It makes you wonder if any of that would've happened had the second Ray Rice video never surfaced. And if not, if that is why the NFL seemingly "couldn't" get the video that, to hear the TMZ reporter grill Goodell on Friday, took one phone call on their end.
The NFL has, due to its own missteps, become the face of domestic abuse issues. And, sadly, it has lived up to the tragic world of domestic abuse ignorance. Leads aren't followed, accusations are delayed, victims aren't heard, the accused are given favorable treatment.
Things could get even worse for the NFL. If Robert Mueller's "independent" probe reveals that the league misled, deceived or knowingly omitted any part of the process, then Friday's press conference will only be a dry run for what's ahead. And established links between Mueller and his past work on behalf of the NFL already call into question the investigation's full independence. So there's that.
Goodell says the league can take a leadership role in the issue of domestic violence moving forward. That past mistakes, under the power and reach of the NFL, can lead the way for future solutions in an effort to turn this entire negative into a positive.
Maybe it can. But not with him as leader.
More like this story
- Editorial: NFL needs leader who understands problem
- Goodell speaks, says 'Same mistakes can never be repeated'
- Kobritz Column: 5 takeaways from the Ray Rice arbitration decision
- Kobritz Column: With the NFL season over, now Goodell's work really begins
- Kobritz Column: Goodell's leadership fragile, but don't count on him leaving