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Home / Sports / Prince of Park Avenue, Roger Goodell, is just a spokesman for NFL’s 32 … – Washington Post
Prince of Park Avenue, Roger Goodell, is just a spokesman for NFL’s 32 … – Washington Post

Prince of Park Avenue, Roger Goodell, is just a spokesman for NFL’s 32 … – Washington Post

The Washington Post’s Mike Jones and Jason Reid break down the Redskins’ Week 3 matchup against the Eagles and what they need to do to get their first back-to-back win since 2012. (Randolph Smith/The Washington Post)

Mike Wise

Columnist September 20 at 8:51 PM

“The easiest way to make money is to create something of such value that everybody wants . . . and the money comes automatically.”

— From “The Wolf of Wall Street”

People are analogizing Roger Goodell to Richard Nixon, thinking the cover-up could be worse than the crime. But Friday afternoon in Manhattan, a lost NFL commissioner sounded more like Jordan Belfort, the eponymous Wolf of Wall Street, a man blinded by the pursuit of millions.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, according to damning revelations in a recent ESPN report, is the Matthew McConaughey character in the 2013 Martin Scorsese film — beating his chest, tutoring Goodell in the ways of wealth, showing a law-and-order commissioner how to discard his moral compass for the greater financial benefit of The Shield.

The Post Sports Live crew offers bold predictions for when the Washington Redskins take on the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

Goodell is The Prince of Park Avenue. He was revealed for who he is the past six months, a $ 45-million-per-year spokesman for 32 billionaires, vast swaths of whose business is also being found out for the house of cards it really is.

The league that markets sanctioned violence and has never been much concerned with its own workforce regularly being knocked unconscious was only months ago led by the most powerful man in sports. Today Roger Goodell, as Keith Olbermann put it, is the commissioner of the National Freefall League.

Friday was the nadir for Goodell, who promised reform he could neither articulate nor sell for 45 useless minutes.

Sexual assault and domestic violence awareness groups “need our help,” the commissioner had the temerity to say, writing checks for organizations he apparently didn’t know existed before almost five dozen of his players battered women the past eight years under his watch.

No doubt the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center will put the money to excellent use. But somewhere their board of directors must be thinking: Wait, a league that harbors and handsomely pays perpetrators of domestic violence, that has ceded the moral high ground to Anheuser-Busch and TMZ, says we need ITS help?

He couldn’t even take the time to strike up a binding trust with domestic violence organizations; he needed a transactional partner for damage control — now.

Really, out of all the people to adjudicate punishment for domestic violence, who would choose the man who presides over a business in which the work results in one in three employees experiencing brain trauma?

Do we really expect a business routinely dealing with life-changing injuries to its players — the same business that incredibly opposes medical benefits for its retirees — to be sensitive to society’s most vulnerable members?

No. The Prince of Park Avenue has shown himself to be golden at one thing, keeping that cash flowing into 32 coffers. Goodell’s greatest successes have been economically capitalizing on a public’s appetite for car accidents in pads and helmets and the gambling that goes with it; at every turn, he has prioritized money over safety, growth over common good. And that is exactly what 32 owners pay him to do.

The question, then, isn’t why Roger Goodell didn’t do a better job of handling individual cases of domestic violence and child abuse. The question is why in the world anyone would expect him to.

A corporation that wraps itself in the flag and does everything but tell you how great an American you are for consuming its product every Thursday, Sunday and Monday has a civic responsibility to be more than merely an entertainment vehicle.

When you are worth $ 10 billion annually and receive untold more billions in public investments, when you can rightfully say you are the most powerful driving media force in the country, you have a corporate responsibility to lead.

You don’t abdicate your role as a long-term health care provider for your young, woozy gladiators after their finite number of earning-power years are gone in a blink. You don’t support owners with racial slurs for team names. You don’t send mixed messages to employees who beat their wives and girlfriends and children that they can do so without any real risk for their own employment.

You, in short, become a model corporate citizen with a double bottom line that includes a greater good beyond the product you provide. You don’t become this millennium’s Big Tobacco.

The adrift nature of the NFL at the moment is perhaps the most shocking takeaway from the past month. This is a league that always had a plan — and if not a working plan then at least a decent exit strategy. To see Goodell and his deputies trod clumsily from one public-relations gaffe to the next, to see such an imperiously confident executive reduced to defensive and petty, a lost captain of an aircraft carrier that can’t quite make a U-turn, is flat-out unsettling.

Before the assault, Rice had become not just a bulldozing running back in Baltimore but also a natural pitchman whose value to sell the Ravens was so strong the organization and the league were nearly willing to overlook the fact that he knocked out his future wife — as long as the grisly details were never available for public viewing.

When TMZ procured a video the NFL inexplicably says it could not, Rice overnight became a violent abuser whom the team and league had no problem denouncing as a batterer who had lied to them.

It’s clear now they all knew what happened, the ugly malice in that elevator. But from Goodell to Bisciotti on down, they all conspired either through willful ignorance or outright falsehoods to prevent us from knowing what they knew.

Now they don’t know who they are or how they got here. When money becomes his master, when a law-and-order commissioner became seduced by the world of 32 billionaires, the Prince of Park Avenue and his league never had a chance.

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