NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave an address that equates to a “State of the NFL” (SOFTNFL) speech on Feb. 5, the Friday before the big game. To examine the league in light of the past year, Goodell remained defensive rather than owning up to some of the NFL’s most troubling predicaments.

Instead of providing NFL fans with some clarification and proclamations of progress, the Commissioner decided to use the league’s ironic and recent acknowledgement of the roles of women in the league as a scapegoat to avoid the elephants in the room—which include sexual and domestic assault charges, and concussion preventative strategies.

In the past year, the league has been recovering and discovering new scandals and tragic anecdotes that have not only worried NFL fans, but have also  left spectators embarrassed to continue their fidelity to the American sport.

In his SOFTNFL, Goodell failed to recognize the pertinent controversy surrounding players and their personal lives, and the notion that NFL players are expected set a positive example as role models. In the NFL’s ninety-sixth regular season, Greg Hardy’s original 10-game suspension, for a firearms-related domestic abuse incident with an ex-girlfriend, was reduced to a mere four games. After he was reinstated, however, he continued to completely disrespect women in his comments targeted at Tom Brady’s wife and her appearance.

More recently, former Texas A&M phenom and current  rambunctious quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, Johnny Manziel, has been teetering on alcoholism, is refusing to attend rehab, and was given a restraining order prohibiting him from seeing an ex-girlfriend for two years.

During his address, when Goodell was asked to comment on the issue, he explained the need to have a potential “program” that will call for all of the NFL to go through “extensive education” to handle these issues.

In respect to focusing on the health and livelihood of his players, Goodell also failed to address the epidemic of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which has affected the likes of former Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler and 12-time pro-bowl linebacker Junior Seau. After the release the film “Concussion,” starring Will Smith, NFL legend Harry Carson came forward to talk about  his symptoms of severe depression following his professional career. CTE is a league epidemic, and action toward stifling that epidemic must be taken. Just stating that concussion screenings have steadily “increased by 108 percent” isn’t enough.

Although Commissioner Goodell did not address sufficiently the predicaments affecting the workers of his “union,” he made it clear that the league will be turning toward being more inclusive. On the same day as his SOFTNFL, the league sponsored the very first “NFL Women’s Summit.” The Summit featured prominent speakers, including tennis legend and barrier-breaker Billie Jean King, recently hired Baseball Tonight analyst Jessica Mendoza, and former Secretary of State  Condoleezza Rice, who some have speculated could (and should) become the next “Comish.”

During the summit, Goodell announced the establishment of the “Rooney Rule” for women—a new regulation that would require interviews of women for executive positions.

The reason why I find the summit of women in the NFL ironic is due in part to how players in recent years, like Hardy and Manziel, have treated and responded to women. Is the league jabbing its own players by entertaining a “Women’s Summit” and introducing the “Rooney Rule?” Is the only positive improvement to have come out of Goodell’s union been the revolutionary hirings that have occurred within the last six or so months (i.e., Referee Sarah Thomas, Dr. Jen Welter, and Assistant Coach Kathryn Smith)? While the summit and the new rule are both positive, neither should  be used to cover up issues of paramount importance—issues that must be resolved to allow for the league to endure.

Tagged: NFL

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