Tag Archives: roger goodell

The Early Trials of Ben McAdoo

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

It is widely known that players and coaches of New York’s professional sports teams are subject to scrutiny that might not exist for smaller market clubs. If he wasn’t aware of this before, Ben McAdoo, Head Coach of the New York Giants, now certainly understands the magnitude of operating in the epicenter of professional sports.

As the Giants near the midway point of the NFL season, they sport a record of 4-3 which falls a bit short of the hefty expectations that were placed on them heading into the year. This team, which missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year in 2015, underwent a massive and expensive rebuild in the off-season. The Giants handed out over $200 million in free agency in an attempt to revamp an atrocious defense that plagued them last year and then followed suit in the 2016 NFL Draft when they selected cornerback Eli Apple with the 10th overall pick. However, the changes didn’t just come in terms of players but also with coaching. Following the disappointing 2015 season, two-time Super Bowl winning Head Coach, Tom Coughlin, decided to step down, leading to the eventual promotion of Ben McAdoo from Offensive Coordinator to Head Coach for the first time in his career. Obviously there were going to be a few growing pains stemming from the changes  made, but no one could have predicted the problems that would surround the Giants in the first few weeks of the 2016 season. To expect a rookie Head Coach to handle these problems with ease would be an unreasonable assumption.

Odell Beckham Jr., who has shined in his first two seasons with New York, has been a topic of discussion among the media so far this year. While the Giants were able to get off to a 2-0 start to begin the season, disappointment ensued when they relinquished a late lead to the NFC East rival Washington Redskins in a 29-27 loss. Beckham had the camera turned on him for the most part of the game due to the highly anticipated match up between him and CB Josh Norman. Beckham was able to have a very productive day, catching seven passes for a combined 121 yards and drawing multiple penalties. While he was able to do well on the field, what he did off of it was a different story. Following a stalled possession, Beckham took out his frustration on the sideline when he struck a kicking net that responded by bouncing back and hitting the receiver in the face. This humorous highlight was then played on loop in the following week while reporters discussed the player’s struggles to handle his emotions. In their next game against the Vikings, Odell once again had the spotlight on him when he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on a day where nothing went his way. Following these outbursts, Odell released a statement where he was quoted as saying, “I’m not having fun anymore,” when talking about playing football.

Odell seemed to have changed his ways in the next couple weeks where he manged to keep his emotions in check and make fun of his altercation with the kicking net on multiple occasions. But in a game against the Baltimore Ravens, after scoring a game winning touchdown to cap off a career day which included a staggering 222 yards receiving, he cost his team when he removed his helmet on the field leading to an unsportsmanlike penalty. These sideline tantrums have turned into an unnecessary distraction for a team with playoff aspirations and have also put Beckham’s teammates and coaches in a bad spot. McAdoo and the rest of the Giants’ players have voiced their support for the player but emphasized that these kinds of actions will not be tolerated anymore.

The other big dilemma that McAdoo has had to deal with in his first year as Head Coach involved Giants’ kicker, Josh Brown, who was accused of abusing his wife. After the team signed Brown to a two-year $4 million extension in April, the player was suspended for the first game of the season stemming from an investigation conducted by the NFL into his arrest in May of 2015. Although he was never charged in the matter, Brown certainly broke the NFL’s domestic violence policy but somehow only received a one game suspension. This minor penalty does not demonstrate what Commissioner Roger Goodell has stated would be the base-line punishment for any player involved in domestic violence. After the Ray Rice fiasco in 2014, Goodell announced that anyone involved in these kind of cases would receive a minimum six game suspension. But rather than focusing on how the league failed to uphold this policy, New York media looked at McAdoo as having mishandled the entire ordeal and questioned why a player like this was able to stay on the roster.

Things changed when new documents were released last week by the King County Sheriff Office that showed Brown admitting that he had abused his wife, Molly Brown, on multiple occasions. This caused the NFL to re-open their investigation into the case and the New York Giants organization did what they should have done in the first place when they officially cut Brown.

Following the release of Josh Brown, Giants President and Chief Executive Officer, John Mara, admitted that him and the rest of the team’s executives’ actions in accordance to the situation were “misguided.”  He stated that the information that was made available to them never showed any irrefutable evidence that Brown had been guilty of committing this crime but after the release of these new documents they concluded that it was time to part ways with the player.

With all of this said, is it reasonable to place the blame on Ben McAdoo for not handling this situation properly? No, but that is the reality of being in charge of a professional team in the biggest market in sports. As previously stated, the team was never given all the information about Brown’s case and when they finally were, they cut the player. Sadly, even though they did the right thing, they will still be criticized for not doing it soon enough.

Being a rookie Head Coach in the NFL is obviously no simple task, but add in the fact that that McAdoo has had to deal with a variety of sensitive issues while also considering the ferocious nature of NY media, it is almost impossible to operate under the radar. For now it seems like this issues have been put in the past, OBJ is well aware of the fact that he simply cannot continue to act the way he has been and Josh Brown is officially not the Giants responsibility anymore. Although, this doesn’t mean McAdoo can relax yet. He still has the duty of putting a competitive team on the field every Sunday, he has to figure out how to incorporate new formations and plays into an offense that has been exposed as being one-dimensional, and overall he has to be a leader for a team that is currently missing one. So far in 2016, the NFC East has shown it might be the best division in all of football and now that these problems seem to be in the past, the New York Giants can finally just focus on winning games.

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Kraft Asks Goodell for Patriots’ Draft Pick

Even though Tom Brady won the “Deflategate” debate, the Patriots still lost. Last fall, the NFL stripped the Patriots of a first round and a fourth round pick in the 2016 NFL draft. As first reported by ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots has asked Roger Goodell for the reinstatement of the Patriots’ first round draft pick. Goodell, in response to “Deflategate,” fined the Patriots and confiscated the Patriots’ picks. Goodell had said that he would reconsider if new evidence was brought forth. Robert Kraft was quoted saying:

“I personally wrote a letter to the commissioner responding to his comment that if any new facts came up, he would take them into consideration. I personally believe that when the league made their decision they did not factor in the Ideal Gas Law. They admitted that publicly. They had a full year of being able to observe Tom Brady play with all the rules of whatever the NFL was, and make any judgments there. We have laid it out pretty straightforward and now it’s up to them to decide.”

At this point, the Patriots first pick in the upcoming NFL draft is 60th overall. It is very difficult for teams to maintain success in the NFL without strong evaluation and execution in the NFL draft. Last fall, Robert Kraft called Goodell’s decision “the harshest penalty in the history of the NFL.” Many think though Goodell has some sort of agenda as he has been very unusually firm with the Patriots throughout the process.

It seems unlikely for change to occur from the commissioner, who Richard Sherman recently called “just a suit” when talking about the new rule changes Goodell wants to implement in the NFL. but Sherman even continued to say “it sounds like something somebody who’s never played the game would say.” Similarly, there is a motion with the NFL and the NFLPA to lesson Goodell’s power to discipline player’s off the field incidents. It is possible that this recent public pressure at the expense of Roger Goodell could force his hand to loosen the penalty on the Patriots in hopes to recover what is a poor public image. It is difficult to predict the final outcome as Goodell has been inconsistent with the way he has handled issues, but Robert Kraft and the Patriots organization hopes things will fall their way.

Media Reacts: NFL’s First Month in 6 Years With No Arrests

by Nicholas Muhl

The first month of the 2015 NFL regular season ended this past weekend. The end of September also marked the first month in 6 years that no NFL player has been arrested.

According to Reuters reporter Mike Rosenberg, the NFL has averaged “an arrest per week” since 2009. Rosenberg also reported that this is the first time in 15 years “the NFL went a calendar month during the season without an arrest.” The league has already had 33 total arrests in 2015, most recently San Fransisco 49ers Linebacker Ahmad Brooks who was charged with sexual battery at the end of August.

Alexandra Sifferlin reported the news for TIME and included a link in his article to USA Today’s NFL arrest archive. The archive contains a complete, descriptive account of a total of 805 NFL player arrests records dating back 15 years to January 24, 2000 when Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith was arrested for allegedly beating and choking his wife. It seems paradoxical that 15 years later we continue to see so many similar headlines. Katie Link and Christian Bryant of the Ventura County Star posed this question about the news of an arrest-free month, “should we view this ‘achievement’ as pathetic, or impressive?” On the other hand, the Dispatch Times referred to it as a “mind-blowing milestone.”  

Since 2009 the NFL has been subject to many media and criminal investigations regarding their many player arrests. Most notably is former New England Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez who was convicted of murder in April. Hernandez and other high profile players like former Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, San Francisco’s Ray MacDonald, Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice, and Viking’s Adrian Peterson have made national headlines and brought up many social issues outside of the sport of football; including rape culture, drug use, animal cruelty, and alcohol and drug abuse. 

The criminal history and violent backgrounds behind many NFL players is not an issue the media has shied away from reporting. However, it is important to note that news of the NFL’s arrest-free month quickly spread on social media, sports blogs and major media conglomerates. This differs from the issue of injuries which I detailed in my article last week, “Protecting the player’s or Protecting the Shield”. Approximately 15 percent of players in the league have experienced an injury this season. While on an individual level this has been heavily reported, injuries and their increasing totals have been a largely avoided issue. However, media and the league did not shy away from making sure (quite literally) that everyone knows it went through an arrest-free month. The NFL and it’s PR department have attempted to put some distance between itself and both the injury and conduct issues the league faces, and will jump at any opportunity they can to make the league look better as it and commissioner Roger Goodell continue to face extreme criticism for the way the league is currently being run. It remains to be seen whether real change is progressing in the league or if this month was merrily a statistical anomaly that further proves the major conduct issues the NFL faces.

Protecting It’s Players or “Protecting the Shield”

by Nicholas Muhl

“We’ll take a quick break while the trainers tend to the player down.” I have never heard this statement made by football broadcasters more than this National Football League season. As of last week, according to official NFL statistics, 15 percent of NFL players had suffered some type of injury through the first two weeks of the season.

15 percent. That’s 234 players.

If you want to take a look at it another way, NFL teams can have an active roster of 53 players. That means that over four full active NFL rosters had suffered an injury out of 32 total NFL teams. Worse than you thought, right?

This past weekend was highlighted by even more injuries, specifically Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who suffered an MCL sprain and bone bruise to his left knee. He joins starting quarterbacks Drew Brees (Saints), Tony Romo (Cowboys) and Jay Cutler (Bears) on a growing list of high profile NFL players who have suffered serious injuries this season.

A lot of sports media coverage has been highlighting these individual NFL injuries, specifically the quarterbacks ones, but coverage of the overall issue seems to be lacking. A simple google search of “15 percent of NFL players hurt” will provide you with very limited results. Outside thinkprogress.org and one Bleacher Report article, the only coverage of this issue seems to be on the many low profile sports blogs. ESPN and other major sports media outlets continue to shy away from serious dialogue about the growing injury problem in the NFL. They rather spend most of their time discussing how long players will be out and how it effects our fantasy football lineups.

The NFL continues to damage control as it faces more and more questions about the safety of it’s players and medical care after their careers have ended. According to a report released by Frontline earlier this month,  87 of 91 deceased former NFL players that were included in their study tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The leading cause for CTE is repetitive trauma to the head. This report comes just a few weeks after the trailer of the new movie Concussion, which stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu. A doctor who challenged the NFL’s policy’s and medical treatment of players, specifically after retirement, when he discovered CTE in the brains of several NFL players.

Despite new medical research being done everyday and legal action being taken against the NFL, it seems that the major media still is shying away from the issue. Whether its because the NFL is working to repairs its image in cooperation with the media or because major media decides fantasy football and other coverage brings in better ratings, something needs to change. The media needs to begin asking the question, is the NFL and commisioner Roger Goodell truly doing everything in their power to protect it’s players? Or are they more concerned with “protecting the shield.”

Medical Marijuana Receives Endorsement From Former NFL Players

By Nick Muhl

January 29, 2015

What was once a somewhat taboo conversation topic, is now a hot debate among american citizens – Marijuana Legalization. Whether it’s local news talk radio, Nancy Grace on HLNtv, or at the family dinner table, the issue of marijuana legalization, recreational and medical, is now being discussed by practically every type of media, corporation, and american household.

The National Football league is no exception.

Earlier this week, three former NFL Players – Marvin Washington, Scott Fujita, and Brandon Ayanbadejo, published a joint article in the Huffington Post titled, “The NFL Needs to Rethink Marijuana”. In the article, the players call for Roger Goodell to begin supporting and allowing players to be prescribed and use medical marijuana. All three players are former Super Bowl Champions and published their joint statement just days before Super Bowl XLIX takes place in Arizona – a state where medical marijuana is legalized.

As mentioned in the article, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a brief statement last year, that he was willing to consider the medical use of marijuana by its players where it is legal. The players call to action for Goodell comes at a time when the league continues to search for solutions to the deteriorating health of players after their careers end.

The league is also facing additional pressure from many players and fans regarding the same issue after the suspension of such players like Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon and New England Patriots running back Legarrette Blount who have been suspended for “simply smoking a joint”. Last February, while live on ESPN, former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark claimed many of his former Pittsburgh Steelers teammates and many other players he knows, smoke pot both during and after the NFL season for multiple different reasons, health being the number one. Click here to see Ryan Clark’s Interview last February on Numbers Never Lie

Fujita, Jackson and Ayanbadejo cite the compound in marijuana known as Cannabidiol (CBD), which has the “scientific potential to create a neuroprotectant for the brain.” With the NFL and its players frantically searching for solutions to the head trauma players receive throughout their careers, many scientists agree that marijuana is the perfect solution to the NFL’s problems.

According to Dr. Barth Wilsey of the University of California San Diego Center for Medical Cannabis Research in a 2014 article with Men’s journal, “There are five studies that were congruent in finding smoking cannabis alleviated neuropathic pain, or pain due to nerve injury.” Wilsey believes that the compound known as THC found in marijuana, in addition to CBD, can relieve the neuropathic pain NFL players continue to have during and after their playing careers.

Almost half of the states have now legalized medical marijuana, and according tot the Drug Policy Alliance about 70 percent of Americans support the reform. HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel”, which was cited in the player’s article, reports that between 50-60% of players currently use marijuana legally, most of them for the therapeutic effect.

Recently, President Obama has suspended much of the federal enforcement of marijuana policies in states that have legalized. The Commander-in-Chief also predicts many more states will pass legalization of medical marijuana within the next few years, “The position of my administration has been that we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue. My suspicion is that you’re gonna see other states start looking at this.”

It will be interesting in the next few months and years to see if the NFL will adjust its marijuana policy as more and more states continue to pass legalization. While the issue is still in hot debate across the country, there remains the strong possibility that the NFL will become the first professional sports organization at its level to allow players to use medical marijuana. With commissioner Roger Goodell not shying away from the topic thus far, continued media coverage and pressure on the NFL’s stance could push them to make a final decision on the topic, sooner than later. In the eyes of Fujita, Washington, and Ayanbadejo and many other players and fans, the NFL shouldn’t squander it’s opportunity to become a leading activist and take a stance in supporting and improving the medical treatment of its current and former players and others who can medically benefit from its legalization.

The Ray Rice Saga and Roger Goodell’s Authority

This is the first in an ongoing series of guest posts by those in academia and in the professional world of sport. Our first guest is Dr. Sungho Cho Ph.D/J.D., a Professor of Sport Law at Bowling Green State University. 

It has been one of the most tumultuous NFL seasons due to the TMZ video that made Ray Rice, at least momentarily, a jobless athlete in spite of his stellar performance statistics and a Super Bowl ring.

When Commissioner Roger Goodell initially imposed the two-game suspension on Rice for his personal misconduct in Atlantic City during the summer, various mass media pointed out that the level of punishment was not commensurate with the reprehensible conduct. For instance, an ESPN columnist, Jane McManus wrote that “[i]t’s a joke, and a bad one.” Fans wonder how Rice was suspended a couple of games while use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) or repeatedly smoking marijuana would result in much harsher penalties, i.e., automatic suspension for six-games and the entire season, respectively. After the TMZ video disclosed what really happened in the elevator, the Commissioner suspended Rice indefinitely. The case is now pending in the league grievance process. Recently, the Commissioner announced an enhanced penalty structure for personal conduct cases.

A plethora of legal questions are associated with this case. How was Rice initially suspended two games while other infractions that were seemingly not so serious (using PEDs) resulted in stiffer penalties? What about the Fifth Amendment Double Jeopardy rule? Can the Commissioner and the Ravens sanction Rice twice for the same misconduct? Since most mass media obscured such issues, this entry briefly explores them in the context of the legal aspects of the incident.

While the use of recreational and performance-enhancing drugs is strictly governed by the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the league and the players union, personal conduct cases are subject to the Commissioner’s broad authority. Thus, the initial two game suspension might not be inconsistent with any league regulations or rules of law even though it raised, without a doubt, a set of ethical and moral questions. The case is not covered by the Fifth Amendment Double Jeopardy rule because the current incident is not a criminal case. The rule only applies to a criminal case involved with state or federal government.

Although there is no double jeopardy issue here, Rice and the union’s on-going grievance claim might have regulatory grounds under Article 46 of the CBA. The provision states: “[o]ne Penalty: [t]he Commissioner and a Club will not both discipline a player for the same act or conduct. The Commissioner’s disciplinary action will preclude or supersede disciplinary action by any Club for the same act or conduct.” Rice was released by the Ravens and suspended by the league. Pursuant to the CBA, the grievance case will be heard and decided by an arbitrator. Recently, the league and union agreed to choose a neutral arbitrator for the case just like the famous New Orleans Saints bounty case. If the arbitrator construes “discipline” in the CBA provision broadly, Rice and the union’s challenge might have merits.

How about the legitimacy of the initial two-game suspension and additional (indefinite) suspension later imposed by the Commissioner? Since the CBA does not expressly prohibit double sanctions like the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does, the Commissioner was in fact allowed to impose another sanction upon the newly discovered aggravating evidence that was arguably further “detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football League,” i.e., the elevator video. Thus, there will be some factual disputes down the road whether the Commissioner had knowledge about the content of the elevator video when he decided the first sanction and whether Rice provided misleading information about the case when he met with the Commissioner during the summer to plead his case. It is also notable that the Commissioner’s discipline can be challenged in the court of law (pretty hard though) if Rice or the union can demonstrate that the Commissioner’s decision was “arbitrary or capricious.”

While media have extensively covered the factual background and sociocultural issues of the case, the above-mentioned legal aspects have mostly been ignored. At least, media should have sent some reporters who could cover and explicate such legal aspects of the case in depth since it was essentially an incident associated with criminal charges.