“We are going to do some things to combat this problem because some of the numbers on DUIs and domestic violence are going up and that disturbs me,” Goodell said. “When there’s a pattern of mistakes, something has got to change.”
Roger Goodell made this statement in an interview with CBSSports.com in August of 2012. He was right at the time and now, after two years of inaction, he is right even more right. Something does need to change: Roger Goodell’s employment status.
His reign as commissioner has a clear pattern of “mistakes” on dealing with instances of domestic violence. Goodell waited until September to indefinitely suspend Ray Rice for charges of domestic violence. (Never mind the fact that Rice was arrested all the way back on February 15th of this year, a video of the instance of violence surfaced that same month, and that he was indicted in March.) Why did it take so long for the NFL to hand down a punishment proportional to the crime of domestic violence? How is a 2-game suspension for a domestic violence indictment a “change” in how the NFL handles its players? These are two questions in a series of many that Roger Goodell either cannot or will not answer.
But Goodell’s pattern of mistakes is certainly not limited to Ray Rice. Eliana Dockterman of Time found that in 2013, 21 of 32 NFL teams still employed a player with either a sexual assault or domestic violence charge. In the past 10 months alone Ray McDonald of San Francisco, Greg Hardy of Carolina, and A.J. Jefferson of Minnesota were all involved in domestic violence or sexual assault cases. Of the three only A.J. Jefferson received a punishment from the NFL (a four-game suspension), Roger Goodell lifted Jefferson’s suspension with no explanation. In fact Greg Hardy, who was convicted this summer on domestic violence charges, played a game for the Carolina Panthers five days ago. Apparently when Goodell promised a change in how the NFL treats domestic violence cases, he meant that they would somehow be taken less seriously.
Unfortunately, the lack of punishment for domestic violence in the NFL is unsurprising. Rice, Hardy, and Goodell are symptoms and products of a larger culture of violence. Athletes are not only absolved of responsibility by the NFL but by the legal system and court of public opinion. Paradoxically, the arrest rate of NFL players for domestic violence and sexual assault are both much higher than the general population, but the conviction rates of professional athletes are lower for the same offenses. The courts refuse to hold athletes responsible for domestic and sexual violence and the public still makes NFL games the most viewed programs on television.
As Roger Goodell said, something has got to change. The NFL has a massive sphere of influence that can be used to construct a new narrative around domestic violence and sexual assault. Since Goodell is too afraid to challenge the culture of violence he needs to step down and allow someone new to change that “something” he referenced in 2012.