The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

CNHI News Service Originals

March 27, 2014

NFL commissioner urges respect for 'the shield'

Roger Goodell's plea for respect from team owners and league execs reflects the NFL commissioner's deep concerns over how successive scandals are tarnishing the image of pro football.

It would be easy to dismiss National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell’s opening remarks at this week’s owners meeting in Orlando as a poor rendition of Aretha Franklin’s career-making classic “Respect”.

Then again, Goodell's statement could be much more than that. While the NFL is the most profitable league in sports, with revenues of about $10 billion a year, the respect he discussed wasn’t about the size of a bank account but how those in the league treat others.

As a business, the NFL has no peer in sports. As a collection of individuals, it has reflected a weakness in its dealings with others. Maybe the competitive nature of professional football explains some of the internal failings, but that’s no excuse.

Goodell made that clear as he simply and directly made a pitch – a plea – for team owners and top executives to appeal to “the better angels of our nature,” as a former president once said.

Respect, Goodell said, should serve as a guide for the future: “Respect for our game and those that came before us. Respect for each other - teams, opponents and game officials. Respect for our fans, our lifeblood. Respect in our workplaces for the diversity that makes us stronger. Respect for our communities and the important role we play in those communities. It’s about the significance of being part of this, ‘The Shield’.”

The NFL's iconic red, white and blue logo is a statement of strength. Unfortunately, “The Shield” and what it represents has been tarnished in recent years.

First and foremost were the disgraceful actions in Miami where good-natured ribbing was replaced by harassment and bullying. Soon Jonathan Martin’s season came to an end with claims of a mental breakdown, and Richie Incognito was sent packing amid allegations of a workplace scandal.

That was just one sordid example of what's wrong with pro ball. Taunting – mostly through use of extreme profanity and racial slurs – has escalated to the point that it's no longer just boys being boys but a problem that reflects poorly on the NFL’s once sterling reputation. When Missouri standout Michael Sam announced he was gay and wanted a job on an NFL team, the league knew it had a potential public relations problem that it needed to get ahead of.

Divisive issues continued over the appropriateness of a team's continued use of the nickname “Redskins." Then, one of the NFL’s most influential owners was jailed on suspicion of driving under the influence and drug possession.

For a league that guards its reputation as closely as Fort Knox does the nation’s supply of gold, Goodell knew he had to take a strong stand. His declaration in Orlando was more than a challenge from the commissioner’s office. It was a directive to everyone that lax enforcement of rules – on the field and throughout the organization - is over.

“It’s about the significance of being part of this – the shield,” said Goodell, calling on owners to step up and make a difference. “We’re expected to do that – by our fans, our business partners and others. We can and we will.”

Professional athletes and the teams they represent are role models, whether they want to be or not. Their actions are emulated.

No doubt Goodell was looking after the NFL’s best interests, but maybe he was thinking about the greater good his sport can do. In emphasizing the importance of acting responsibly for the league and its players, perhaps Goodwell was thinking his message would be heard by the NFL’s many fans and followers.

Aretha Franklin wanted someone to show her a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t.

In his first inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln called on people across a divided land to put aside their differences and draw upon “the better angels.”

The contexts may have been vastly different, but somewhere both knew there was a better way.

Goodell’s assessment of conditions in the NFL is spot-on. This is a crucial time for the league and how it addresses its problems. He made that perfectly clear to the owners. Hopefully they were listening.

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

1
Text Only
CNHI News Service Originals
  • Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 2.16.35 PM.png Are Americans smart to stop drinking diet sodas?

    Recent data from Beverage Digest suggest many are cutting back on diet sodas. Consumption of diet sodas fell more than that of sugary sodas in 2013. This raises two questions: Why is total consumption declining, and is drinking diet soda harmful to health?

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 10.43.57 AM.png VIDEO: Amazing dance moves at NCAA title game

    Eye-catching action wasn't confined to the court at AT&T Stadium Monday night during the NCAA Championship game between UConn and Kentucky. This pair -- apparently a father and son -- delighted the crowd during a timeout with some synchronized dance moves.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_twitter.jpg Travelers fly on Air Twitter

    The enlightened age of social media has dawned over the airline industry, casting shadows over telephone call centers and on-site agents. Facebook and Twitter are racking up the friends and followers while the hold music plays on.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: White House may ban selfies

    The White House wasn't too pleased after Red Sox player David Ortiz snapped a selfie with President Obama that was later used promotionally by Samsung.

    April 8, 2014

  • 297px-Starbucks_Corporation_Logo_2011.svg.png Why Starbucks won't recycle your paper coffee cup

    When you drop that used white paper cup into the bin next to the door at a Starbucks, have you done your part to save the planet? Starbucks has long hoped that you would think so. After all, there's no better way to attract an affluent, eco-conscious clientele than to convince customers that your disposable product is "renewable."

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • A man with amnesia taught us how memories become personal

    Although not as celebrated as the late American amnesiac H.M., for my money K.C. taught us more important and poignant things about how memory works. He showed how we make memories personal and personally meaningful. He also had a heck of a life story.

    April 8, 2014

  • At many leading schools, football fails to make cut

    To my astonishment, 67 of the top 100 schools, ranked by participation in college-level tests, said they do not field a team, denoting a shift in American high school culture, at least in those schools that challenge their students most.

    April 8, 2014

  • Investigators seek cause of fire that killed three brothers

    Authorities searched the rubble of a burned-out farm house over the weekend for the cause of a fire that took the lives of three young brothers left home alone while their widowed mother worked the overnight shift at a direct mail company.

    April 6, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-04 at 3.36.06 PM.png 3 apps to make your flight easier

    Whether you fly once a week for work or once a year for a vacation, you can bet that all areas of your trip are being monitored by smart phones. While it isn't hard to find an app with your flight info, some apps make the process of flying a lot simpler.

    April 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • Don't blame voters for low turnout

    Suppose nobody votes this year. On Nov. 4 the doors to the polling places are thrown open, and there isn't anyone in line. No absentee ballots are filed. No one litigates, charging either fraud or discrimination, because there weren't any voters.
    It won't happen. But if it did, pundits and activists would surely blame public apathy for such a catastrophe. I'd name a different culprit: the major parties, their candidates and their acolytes in the news media.

    April 6, 2014

Front page
Clinton Herald Photos


Browse, buy and submit pictures with our photo site.

Poll

What are your plans for the weekend?

Enjoying the outdoors
Staying in out of the heat
Traveling
Other
     View Results
AP Video
Olympics 2014
Featured Comment
Featured Ads
Blue Zones Project
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.