Mt. Vernon Register-News

Z_CNHI News Service

May 30, 2014

Scandals, lawsuits could sink NFL commissioner

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been taking a little heat since it was reported that he’s pulling down a cool $44 million a year.

That seems like a lot of money for attending football games. But after reviewing his work schedule and assessing the lawsuits and problems he faces, he probably earns every penny.

The NFL is the country’s greatest sports empire. It prints money. It’s also the subject of a tidal wave of litigation and public relations nightmares. Here’s a sampling:

The most recent legal case was filed by a group of former players who charge they were knowingly and illegally fed painkillers and anti-inflammatories to keep them on the field without their team disclosing the long-term dangers associated with the practice.

This is another example of both sides agreeing that, “If you ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies.” Players play because that’s what they’re taught to do. From the first time they put on pads, they are reminded that playing football means playing with pain. No excuses, no exceptions.

It’s also a job, and the lure of big money means they do what they must to keep the checks coming. Through their lawyers, some say they didn’t understand when they took the many injections and pain-numbing medications what a big price they’d pay later.

Of course, blaming players because they failed to protect themselves from themselves isn’t a winning defense. Who knows, there might not be a winning defense for the NFL. Nevertheless, it’s a legal matter that’s likely to draw plenty of attention and finger-pointing before it’s resolved.

Another troubling lawsuit doesn’t even involve the hard-hitting behemoths that give the NFL its reputation as a violent, physical game. This comes from the lasses who roam the sidelines displaying beautiful smiles and skimpy outfits.

This case, brought against about a half-dozen teams, cites violations of labor laws. In exchange for being shown on television and dancing across the field doing cheers during timeouts, cheerleaders receive a few dollars an hour – less than minimum wage. That’s if they follow all the other rigid rules and regulations set for cheerleaders.

Settling this matter wouldn’t cost NFL team owners much money, but even bringing it forward and exposing a tawdry practice is a black eye that besmirches the league’s  All-American image.

An examination of how cheerleaders are treated and how they are used to promote pro football could led to claims of sexual harassment. That’s a fight the NFL might be hard-pressed to win - and certainly doesn’t want.

It seems the NFL needs to admit its errors and use a little common  sense.

Another major case still hanging over the NFL is the class-action concussion lawsuit brought by about 4,500 former NFL players. The sides reached a $765 million settlement last summer, but a federal judge has hesitated in certifying the agreement.

The original suit claimed the NFL covered up known risks of concussions and head trauma associated with playing pro football. The question the judge is weighing - and one that must leave Goodell worried - is whether the settlement, although large, was fair. It compensates injured players but is it enough to provide care and treatment for the rest of their lives?

There are other serious legal actions that reflect poorly on the league, even if the NFL is not be a defendant.

Hazing and bullying claims brought by Miami Dolphins lineman Jonathan Martin against a teammate have been embarrassing, if not legally actionable. Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was charged with assaulting his fiancé in an Atlantic City hotel. The Redskins' nickname controversy won’t go away. Then there have been the deeply disturbing allegations - including first-degree murder charges - against former New England star receiver Aaron Hernandez.

If the commissioner can correct those problems, he earns all of his financial rewards.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.

1
Text Only
Z_CNHI News Service
  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Sideshows involving Rice and Dungy stain NFL's image

    Pro football training camps should be all about, well, football. But the talk around the NFL is about Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice's two-game suspension, Tony Dungy's indelicate remarks about Michael Sam and Jim Irsay's largesse. What kind of league is Roger Goodell running?

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • linda-ronstadt.jpg Obama had crush on First Lady of Rock

    Linda Ronstadt remained composed as she walked up to claim her National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can black women have it all?

    In a powerful new essay for the National Journal, my friend Michel Martin makes a compelling case for why we need to continue the having-it-all conversation.

    July 29, 2014

  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • HallofFameBraves.jpg Hall of Fame adds businesslike Braves, Frank Thomas, managers La Russa and Torre

    Atlanta Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and their manager, Bobby Cox, dominated much of baseball during the 1990s. This weekend they went into the Hall of Fame together.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks