Roger Goodell has come down hard on the New Orleans Saints organization and players for the Bounty Scandal, recently suspending Jonathan Vilma for the entire season. Preaching for player safety but pushing for a long NFL season, it’s no wonder Goodell is hated by a large group of NFL players.
Is David Stern loved by the NBA players? No. But Stern doesn’t seem to be working hard on both angles – pleasing the owners with his actions while trying to appear sympathetic towards the players with his words. Stern is pro ownership all the way, ruling with a hard hand in his NBA dictatorship. He faced different challenges than Goodell does, especially with the lawsuits against the NFL, but he doesn’t come off as a hypocrite. Disliked? No doubt.
Goodell hugging the draft picks a couple of weeks ago in New York was one of his signature moves. When you ask certain players like Osi Umenyora who travelled with Goodell on a USO tour, he’s good for the players for the league. Those who have talked to him among the players closer to the pie, say he’s really looking out for the players and at least willing to hear their side of the story.
But listening and never actually doing anything about it doesn’t make him pro-players. Goodell may say or actually clear time from his busy day to speak to players and is always open to ideas from them, but it’s kinda weird when nothing they suggest to him or complain to him about ever gets done. Taking away their money with increased fines; Talking about player safety while pushing for the 18 game regular season. General distrust.
So what do players want from him? He could create an independent appeals process, , because whether it’s just or not the players see the current process as unfair. Goodell isn’t directly involved with on field punishments according to him. There’s Merton Hanks, a retired player who decides the penalty; Art Shell and Ted Cottrell, former coaches, handle appeals and the NFLPA reviews the league’s fine policy during training camp every year.
Jay Feely, the kicker for the Arizona Cardinals and an NFLPA representative isn’t one of Goodell’s fans - There’s a general distrust for him. A lot of players don’t believe he has their best interests at heart. If he did, he wouldn’t have 200-plus workmen’s compensation complaints caught up in the appeals process. He wouldn’t be dismissing disability claims right off the bat. There are so many things that happen behind the scenes that fans don’t know about that make players distrust him.
In 2010, a year before the previous CBA expired, Goodell toured training camps heading up to the 2010 season, to see ‘what’s wrong and what’s right’ among the players. He didn’t visit all the teams, reportedly because some of the meeting were cancelled after it seemed that Goodell would face too much of a hostile environment.
Goodell, like every Commish, can’t have it both ways. The problem is his actions like Draft night seem truly like an act of showing – You see? I am for you guys. I’m interacting. He hurts players where it hurts the most – Their pockets, a little too harshly in my opinion. His stance on delivering ‘true’ justice’ seems like all he cares about, even if it means bending the usual procedures.
His actions against the Saints players – The ring leaders, will not go down quietly. An appeal is already on their way, and both the players themselves and the NFLPA want to see the evidence Goodell used to determine who will be punished, how, and for how long. There isn’t a feeling of trust or disclosure from the commissioner.
Nick Barnett, Buffalo Bills - We’re going through big changes, as far as the culture of the sport, and it’s hard to agree when a lot of money is being taken from you while you’re going through a transition. Roger was killing people last season. A guy like James Harrison lost something like 10 years of taking care of his family.
James Harrison famously said - If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn’t do it. That may be an extremist view on Goodell, but the overall notion among many players in the league who don’t get to interact directly with the chief is that he’s arrogant and in love with the power he has in his hands.
Goodell? He’s aware that he’s not really loved. But that just comes with the territory in his opinion. Those supporting him say that in 20 years people will realize how much good he did for the league and the players who hate him as well. Looking from the side, Goodell doesn’t strike me as the evil dictator some claim he is, but he’s not even remotely close to being someone open to discussion with the players. Listening is easy. Actually considering their proposals and opinions, acting on them, that’s something else. Something that doesn’t seem to happen in today’s NFL.