Being human has become a firing offense

We’ve become a nation of self-righteous scolds, and sometimes it makes me sick.

God help anyone in the public eye who reveals some human fraility — a lapse in judgement, a revealed prejudice of some kind, an ill-chosen comment spoken off the cuff. Immediately, the Internet resonates with cries for that person’s head on a plate. Or, failing that, th

eir resignation.

No second chance. No “Just make sure that doesn’t happen again.” No mercy.

If every workplace were run with that philosophy, the national unemployment rate would be 90 percent.

Moreover, we would have had 10 presidents since Ronald Reagan if every one of his successors had resigned when public opinion demanded it.

OK, to the point: I’m talking about Roger Goodell.

So, what’s the deal here? Do we want him to quit because Ray Rice hit his fiancee? Probably not — I don’t think anyone believes Rice called Goodell on his cell phone that night and asked: “Say, Roger, my girlfriend is really pissing me off, and I’m thinking of punching her in the face. What kind of penalty would I get?”

No, we’re mad because we believe he lied to us about the infamous elevator video, and because he only gave Rice a two-game suspension.

Of course, people lie to us all the time. Politicians lie to us. Advertisers lie to us. Indeed, given the current climate, you get no points for telling the truth — people still want you to resign. Of course, none of us who are berating Goodell ever lied to cover our butts.

And it’s not as if he were violating his own policy. The NFL apparently had no policy on domestic abuse.

To me, a better topic of discussion would be how the legal system handles domestic violence. There still seems to be the unspoken concept that it’s really a private matter. Ask any cop on the beat who has made 12 trips to the same house on domestic violence calls, only to have the aggrieved party decide the next day not to press charges.

This is certainly understandable. It’s hard to haul your significant other into court. You may still love that person, or are afraid of them. Or both. We forget that Ray Rice wasn’t charged with anything.

But in the Rice case, it was all on film. If someone robs a convenience store at gunpoint, is captured by a surveillance camera and then captured by police, the clerk who was robbed can’t say: “Oh, he seems like a good guy. Let’s just forget the whole thing.”

Not even the CEO of the convenience store company can make that call. A crime is a crime.

But suddenly, because he’s the person in Harry Truman’s famous kitchen, Goodell is getting all the heat.  Why should he quit? He’s been embarrassed. He has admitted his mistake. It’s definitely not going to happen again (note the case of the Arizona running back that followed Rice’s). And this is someone whom everyone concedes has made a series of smart decisions that has made the NFL enormously profitable.

When a smart person like Goodell makes a mistake and is then lambasted by public opinion, he thinks: “Oops. I guess that’s really a big deal with people. We’d better change our policy.”

What if Ray Rice were a stock broker instead of a high-profile athlete, and the same scenario unfolded? Would anyone demand that the head of that company quit?

Yes, these people who are trashed in the media and on-line are human. Unfortunately, though, so are all the rest of us.


2 thoughts on “Being human has become a firing offense

  1. Jim Martin says:

    Roger Goodell is the employee of 32 individual billionaires. That may not be totally true but it is nevertheless accurate. His job is to protect them individually while enriching them collectively. In doing this with an organization this large and varied the only thing that impedes him from doing his job is close scrutiny and there is always an abundance of that just as there are of sharks when blood is in the water.
    Mr. Goodell seems to be a good man and does a good job. Unfortunately, some of the players are not good men and he has to deal with them to maintain the reputation and profitability of his league. He has to work with the law, 32 individual franchises and a self important media all surrounded by the social media where the most trivial can be blown wildly out of proportion and the most important totally trivialized. The truth lies somewhere close to the middle or nowhere.
    It is ironic that this commissioner who has been so roundly criticized for his harsh punishments of players and their personal conduct should be pilloried for not being harsh enough. I would say that he won’t make the same mistake again but how can anyone know what will offend the mercurial sensibilities of the social media. There are many looking for some fund raising opportunity in the world of those who can be so devastatingly offended when the need arises.


  2. Brian W. says:

    Allow to me address a few salient points without engaging in any let-he-who-is-without-sin platitudes.

    First, every workplace is not the NFL. In fact, I defy you list even one other business entity that is worth billions in assets, earns billions in revenues, is followed fervently by millions, and is granted special, tax-exempt status. There is no other apple with which you may compare… only a host of oranges. And as Mr. Goodell is surely finding out, being on top of the heap affords one great visibility, but also makes one an outsized target.

    Second, do we want Roger Goodell to quit because Ray Rice hit his then-fiancee? No. Rice’s behavior in and of itself is not the issue; Goodell is, after all, the NFL commissioner, not Ray Rice’s babysitter. But as is often the case in such scenarios, it’s not the crime that draws unwanted scrutiny – it’s the coverup.

    By even your own admission, Roger Goodell has earned a reputation as an intelligent, engaged business leader. The trouble is, that’s the bar he has to clear not only while making his league “enormously profitable,” but also when unsavory situations arise. And by that standard, one of two things happened; either:

    a) Goodell knew nothing of how the Ravens front office schemed to cover up the now-infamous elevator video – giving lie to just how engaged a leader he really is, or

    b) Goodell knew about the coverup and allowed it to happen – which is not the action of an intelligent leader.

    Neither of these is bound to maintain, let alone elevate, anyone’s confidence in Goodell’s continued stewardship of the most profitable sports organization on the planet.

    Finally, in any endeavor, a leader is only useful to the extent he or she can convince others to follow. If those being led aren’t buying in, leadership becomes a hard sell indeed. If those who chose this person to lead find his or her continued presence does more harm than good, the clock begins ticking on that leader’s tenure. It is, as the saying goes, the cost of doing business.


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