He gets booed consistently and is widely ridiculed, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is currently staring down a golden opportunity to improve his reputation and the league’s reputation with a strong and strict disciplinary ruling on Carolina Panthers’ Greg Hardy’s latest domestic violence charge.
If there’s one thing that has been a constant problem in recent years in the NFL, it’s player discipline. More and more each year, we hear about and see players getting in trouble for their actions off the field. Despite the real world rules and laws they’ve broken, they still manage to take the field on Sunday’s and make millions of dollars.
According to this chart compiled by USA Today, there have been 713 (at least) NFL players arrested since the year 2000. The worst year was 2006 when there were 67 NFL players arrested. Since the year 2005, there have been at least 47 NFL players arrested annually (there have been 21 in 2014). That is up from 2000-2004 ,where the number of arrests ranged from 36 to 42.
Broken down, a total of 170 of those arrests fall into either assault (70), battery (18) or domestic violence (82). Players are aggressive in nature on the field, but seem to have a difficult time taming themselves off the field. (NOTE: Since the problem addressed here is players acting physically violent, those were the only three charges that were taken into account. There have been countless players arrested on alcohol, gun and drug related charges.)
As the epidemic continues to get worse, we have really yet to see Goodell stand up and take a stand against players in his league misbehaving in public. We hear about closed door meetings between the commissioner and the player, but rarely, if ever, do we see any sort of disciplinary action taken by the league. Usually, Goodell simply says that the league will defer to the punishment handed down in court.
If Goodell wants to improve the image of the league, that simply is not good enough. He must be more proactive. Take Major League Baseball, for example. Steroids have long left a black mark on the game, however commissioner Bud Selig and his staff are working to erase that.
Rather than holding closed door meetings and slapping wrists, Selig is suspending players. While some argue that punishments could be harsher, at least disciplinary action is taken. Instead of simply deferring to the authorities, the league took action all on it’s own which is a step in the right direction.
The most recent instance in which a commissioner took deliberate action to deliver a message of bad behavior zero-tolerance is obviously Adam Silver and the NBA. Upon the allegations of racism being handed down against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, Silver brought the hammer down. Sterling received a lifetime ban from the NBA and has essentially been forced to sell the team.
Major League Baseball doesn’t want a reputation for being a league ruled by steroids and the NBA doesn’t want a reputation for racism. To ensure that their reputations stay intact, both leagues are taking strong and strict action against those that go against that reputation.
Football, however, has done very little to combat the aggressive and violent reputation that their players are giving the league. Roger Goodell lets his players run around in the real world and act like a bunch of thugs (Thug (noun): a violent criminal). It is unacceptable, especially since professional athletes are some of the top role models for kids.
For information on suspensions handed out to players whose arrests fell into one of those three categories, we revisit USA Today’s chart. Of the 170 total players arrested, just eight of those led to suspensions given by the league. Domestic violence arrests have seen six players suspended while assault and battery each have one suspension stemming from them.
Out of 170 players, just eight received disciplinary from the league. Several others were cut or traded, but in terms of strict and deliberate action taken by Roger Goodell, just eight instances. If you’re looking to prevent future players from making those mistakes, then a much louder statement needs to be made.
An example needs to be made in order for the others to truly understand what’s at stake. With the domestic violence charges being brought against Hardy, Goodell cannot sit back and punt this one to the authorities. He needs to take a proactive stance in telling the league that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
I’m not going to speculate or call for Goodell to suspend Hardy for X amount of games, but a statement needs to be made. A message needs to be sent to the league that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.
Brian Skinnell is a sports writer born and raised in the Washington, D.C.-metro area and covers the Washington Nationals, Wizards and MiLB for District Sports Page. He’s had work published on Yahoo Sports and Rant Sports, and has made several radio show appearances across the country to discuss his works. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+!