NFL’s Roger Goodell in re-run of Custer’s last stand

September 24, 2014

The National Football League faces serious criticisms for its policy and actions against players found guilty of off-field violence. The specific case of Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens has opened up the broader questions of the competence of Commissioner Roger Goodell

The elevator punch

Ray Rice was videod knocking his then fiancée unconscious in an elevator of an Atlantic City casino. The assault on Janay Palmer took place last February. Initially, Commissioner Goodell banned Rice for two games for his off-field actions.

When the video appeared on the Internet in August, there was a belated reaction from Roger Goodell and the Baltimore Ravens. Rice was delisted from the club, and banned indefinitely from the league.

More abuse problems

More abuse problems were uncovered involving NFL players. Media interest in the story grew. Commissioner Goodell appeared to be ducking Press Conferences, and ‘went missing’ at a prestige event he was expected to attend.

The damaging press conference

When Goodell surfaced at a Press Conference, he was already appearing in the role of Colonel Custer with the Indians approaching rapidly. He appeared nervous and weakly apologetic. He is unable to explain his silence and unavailability for comment as the story developed. Videos of the event go viral.

The Media sound off

His conduct and competence become headline news. Rachel Nichols of NFL is among those in war paint. Goodell’s future as NFL’s chief honcho seems less than secure.

Leadership lessons

The conventional wisdom of Press Relations 101 is enough to start the discussion. Goodell allowed the story to build up by failing to make himself available to the Media. By the time he did face the press, he needed to have sorted out his symbolic acts of contrition. He missed his last chance to manage the dilemmas he faced.

Goodell could have taken lessons from the sad case of the even more beleaguered Rob Ford, mayor of Toronto, as he attempted to cling to power earlier this year. Ford, facing the media after his various misdemeanors had a wonderful line in self-criticism and contrition.

Acknowledgement

To LWD subscriber Mike Langley, who drew attention to the developing story.

The story will be followed

The story will be followed here in updates to this post.

26th October 2014

Goodell’s salary estimated at more than $200 million since 2007


Should the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) be responsible for player safety on the ice?

November 20, 2012

Guy H.J. Bourbonnière,
Director of Canadian Healthcare & Educational Markets, and Comprehensive & Energy Solutions,
Ingersoll Rand

During this spring’s Hockey playoffs, Phoenix Coyotes winger Raffi Torres applied a vicious hit to the head of star player Marian Hossa of the Chicago Hawks. The National Hockey League imposed a 25 game suspension, which was quickly appealed by the Players association. The case reveals some interesting dilemmas.

An odd assumption

The NHLPA is made up of athlete members and executive leaders with the mandate to represent the players of the National Hockey League (NHL) and to guarantee that their rights as players are upheld under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. One of the odd assumptions is the players expect the NHL to protect their association members from one other’s misdemeanors.

The new collective bargaining agreement

The NHLPA is in the news [October 2012] as players come together to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with the NHL. There is no mention of the recent on-ice assaults.

The dilemma that the NHLPA player leaders have, is that while they attempt to work together to improve the financial position and working conditions of players, they also compete against each other every time they play a hockey game.

The game is quick, violent and dangerous. Often players break the rules to inflict forms of intimidation against each other (i.e. fellow association members) to win a game.

In fact, the NHL has to put new measures in place regularly to deter fellow association members from hurting each other in both premeditated and spontaneous violent actions. It is a real irony that the NHL has to impose regulations to protect fellow association members from each other.

Sometimes simple, sometimes serious

These regulations may be as simple as penalizing a team and player for a short period of time by reducing the number of players they can have on the ice surface during play. In more serious cases, the player can be suspended for a number of games, and forfeit his pay for those games that he is suspended.

On a regular basis, the NHLPA appeals these suspensions to protect the rights of the offending player. I wonder how the victim of the assault feels when his own player’s association is defending his assaulter. It makes more sense that suspensions be doled out by the NHLPA instead of the NHL.
The most recent example was during this spring’s playoff where repeat offender Raffi Torres applied a vicious hit to the head of star player Marian Hossa. The National Hockey League imposed a 25 game suspension which was quickly appealed by the NHLPA.

‘Who owns the problem?’

The NHLPA should re-write the charter on what constitutes a member in good standing, to include respect for their fellow members. Using their fists or sticks as weapons against each other should not be tolerated by the NHLPA. The NHLPA should not expect the NHL to have to protect players from each other.

Lindsay’s legacy

The NHLPA was formed by a heroic leader (and player) named Ted Lindsay (Duff, 2008). He formed the original NHLPA at a time when it was easy for owners to ostracize players who confronted the owners. It is now the time for a new heroic leader to come forward and move beyond the paradigm of a players’ association as a unified front vs. team owners. The players are extremely well-paid and are working under good labour conditions. The people who are hurting them and shortening their careers through assaults on the ice, are fellow members. An enhanced mandate of the NHLPA should include the enforcement of appropriate on-ice behavior and remove players who choose not to comply.

To go more deeply

Duff, B. (2008) Seven: A Salute to Ted Lindsay.1st ed. Olympia Entertainment
Kelly, M. (2012) Raffi Torres suspended 25 games by NHL for Hossa hit: Apr 21, 2012. Available at:
http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/nhl/story/2012/04/21/sp-raffi-torres-suspension.html (Accessed: 15 August 2012)
Ross, A. (2010) ‘Trust and Antitrust: The Failure of the First National Hockey League Players’ Association, 1957-1958’, University of Guelph
Available at: http://uoguelph.academia.edu/JAndrewRoss/Papers/480136/Trust_and_Antitrust_The_Failure_of_the_First_National_Hockey_League_Players_Association_1957_-1958
(Accessed: 26 July 2012)
The Canadian Press. (2012) NHL reduces Raffi Torres suspension by four games, Available at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/nhl-reduces-raffi-torres-suspension-by-four-games/article4384878/ (Accessed: 15 August 2012)
CONSTITUTION OF THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE PLAYERS’ ASSOCIATION [Online]. Available at: http://www.nhlpa.com/docs/about-us/nhlpa_constitution.pdf
2011-12 Official NHL Rulebook [Online]. Available at: http://www.nhl.com/nhl/en/v3/ext/pdfs/2011-12_RULE_BOOK.pdf

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