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1:27 AM Thu, Sept. 20th

Editorial: NFL needs leader who understands problem

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference Friday, about new personal conduct policies. (Jason DeCrow/The Associated Press)

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference Friday, about new personal conduct policies. (Jason DeCrow/The Associated Press)

We waited for him to speak. We waited for the commissioner of the NFL - the most popular sports brand in the United States - to explain a deplorable series of events.

Like it or not, the NFL has become the face of the issue of domestic violence. And after Roger Goodell finished Friday's contentious press conference, it was hard to tell if the league had really come to terms with that fact, based on the tragic way it bungled its high-profile handling of it.

We don't look at the NFL to guide our society, but it's laughable to think that star athletes, coaches and commissioners don't impact national conversations. And when their reckless behavior is on full display, it becomes relevant in some way to our communities. Even if not to you directly, it is to your neighbor, your co-worker, your friend, or even someone in your own family who may be struggling to be heard in their own silent suffering.

The pedestals on which we put sports stars have always been too high, and now the issues they raise are much, much higher.

The NFL may think it's been through hell for the past few weeks, and maybe in its own bottom-line world it has. It's been nothing, however, compared to the hell of domestic violence. Through the league's own incidents and subsequent investigations, it has inadvertently shown how destructive turning a blind or distracted eye to domestic violence is and that zero tolerance is the only solution.

At least for those of us in the real world, which is far from the NFL.

The wonders of the league have always been an escape and true recreation for passionate followers who really do just love football and its communal camaraderie, and the countless players and coaches who represent integrity on and off the field. It still is that, and it still will be today when games kick off around the country.

The fans aren't the ones who have lost a grip on fantasy versus reality. That's the NFL.

The NFL wants to now lead this crusade. But it's hard to lead by examples of mistakes and awful judgment, no matter how many apologies are included in the public relations package.

The NFL needs a leader who gets it, not someone who has been forced to learn after exhibiting patterns that domestic violence victims have become all too accustomed to.

Commissioner, step aside. And not for the good of your league, but for the good of your cause.