One of the all-time favorite Bill Belichick quotes still applies in everyday life.
If a player erred on something the coach had covered extensively, instead of exploding, he would calmly respond, “You either don’t know. Or you don’t care. And both are a problem.”
In times of adversity—at work, with family, in faith—this hot-knife truism slices perfectly through the BS.
When news broke that the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens claimed not to have seen the casino video of Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancé as outsiders, there was no way to ascertain the truth.
Some may accuse the NFL of lying, but I find that counterproductive. Turning this into CSI NFL over the video itself doesn’t accomplish much. That isn’t the heart of the matter.
Whether you saw the video or not, it boils down to one of two things. You either didn’t know. Or you didn’t care. And both are a problem.
An ambiguous admission of wrongdoing on the league’s part (after public outcry) came in Commissioner Goodell’s letter on August 28th to all 32 owners. The big resolution?
“I’m sorry. And here are some new emphases, community outreach, and training initiatives.” That’s it?
“You saw the video. You didn’t see the video. Either way it boils down to one of two things. You either didn’t know. Or you didn’t care. And both are a problem.”
Imagine if anyone else in the NFL had made such a resolution for a major embarrassment of the shield—from Colts owner Jim Irsay to Josh Gordon, Aldon Smith, Daryl Washington, Lavon Brazill, and on and on. How about Ray Rice?
That’s not how the NFL has taught its players and fans that accountability works over the last near-decade. Somebody gets punished. Fined. Suspended. Fired. That’s just how it works.
So when the Commissioner of the NFL released a lengthy statement nearly two weeks ago, explaining, “At times, however, and despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals.
We did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence,” that’s the untruth that matters.
No creative stretch of the phrase “despite our best efforts” could include neglecting to look at the video of an incident you’re investigating.
Not all the time that transpired between the incident and the initial two-game suspension. And not in the two weeks since the mea culpa and pledge to do better.
No honest person could describe what’s happened as anyone’s best efforts. Not watching the video proves it’s simply not true.
Football is an honest game. We don’t vote on tackles. And when something important is in question, we look at the replay.
We check the tape. Reviewing the video is in our collective NFL DNA. We check the video to make sure we get it right. The big stuff. Like touchdowns. But not domestic abuse cases.
The idea of the NFL not checking the video is like Ronald McDonald getting hungry and not thinking of a hamburger.
Fans, players, and owners should understand that Roger Goodell claimed to be incredulous without even bothering to look at the best evidence for his ruling.
Because that critical piece of information came out now, we’re stuck trying to resolve things unrelated to the action on the field one week into the season of the world’s most excellent game.
“Now is the time for NFL owners to remind Commissioner Goodell that this simply isn’t how it works….according to his own standard.”
The writer contends that the time has come for NFL owners to remind Commissioner Goodell that his recent actions are not aligned with his standards.
Expressing concern for the need for concrete action, the writer emphasizes the importance of accountability for damaging the NFL’s reputation over the summer.
While acknowledging Roger Goodell’s potential virtues, such as being a good man and having a deep love for football and the league’s growth, the writer argues that these qualities are currently irrelevant, much like past deeds are immaterial when it comes to severe offenses like striking a quarterback’s head, driving intoxicated, or committing violence against a woman.
The writer criticizes Goodell for allegedly misrepresenting how he handled the Ray Rice case.
Acknowledging the discomfort of such situations, the writer highlights that the personal benefits gained from Goodell’s efforts to grow the game do not absolve him of blame for tarnishing the NFL shield.
The writer asserts that Goodell is now conveying to the greater NFL community that accountability rules don’t apply to him but to everyone else.
Calling on NFL owners to address this deviation from standards, the writer draws attention to the league’s initiatives regarding women’s issues and emphasizes that accountability cannot be avoided in the mishandling of a domestic abuse case.
The writer acknowledges the absence of a singular player or fan voice representing everyone but underscores the shared concern and care within the player and fan community for the NFL and football games.
They assert that claiming accountability without taking concrete actions is akin to spitting on the shield and expressing trust that the owners will act promptly and correctly.