Diane M. Grassi
NFL justice and the torn fabric of American values
By Diane M. Grassi
October 11, 2014

It was once held that there was a universal and collective goal to advance American ideals and values, for the best interests of our communities and fellow Americans. But sadly, such has been lost to generations gone by.

What, you say, does that have to do with football?

Well, football at one time, not too many years ago, was thought of as a popular sport in the United States, geared towards aspiring athletic excellence and competition, rather than that of a $10 billion annual windfall.

To wit, football served as a motivational tool, for youth and young men, in order to exemplify character in the handling of life's challenges, beyond the playing field. Skills such as leadership, teamwork, social responsibility and personal accountability were the order of the day.

Now – football is big business first, starting at the amateur levels, which is the feeder system for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), going forward to the National Football League (NFL), now the most lucrative and powerful professional sports league in the U.S. The profit-making NCAA is a close second, from both its football and basketball college conferences.

But the NFL did not attain its wealth and power in a vacuum, but rather it had a lot of help along the way; from the federal government, to the courts, to the local taxpayer. And because of mandated leniency by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and its NFL ant-trust exemption, the NFL's federal not for-profit business league tax-exempt status since the 1960's, and taxpayer funded billion dollar stadiums chockfull of tax abatements, the NFL continues to live large. With the NFL's unending flow of corporate welfare, which subordinates the public, it continues to prey upon its fans and the U.S. taxpayer.

But it is because of the many exclusive benefits bestowed upon the NFL that it indeed has more than a moral obligation to lead by example, something that it has been criticized for not doing these last several months.

Given the present climate of our predominant politically correct culture in the U.S., the NFL has gotten away with negligently performing its role for the greater good. It has been permitted to not offend anyone and brush things under the rug. Moreover, our up and coming generations are being ill-served by educators, law enforcement and employers, too, enabling a culture willing to excuse abhorrent and criminal behavior, offering a bevy of excuses and also looking the other way.

Much has been made of the NFL, and its policies or lack thereof of suspensions and punishment regarding alleged criminal behavior on behalf of its players, its employees and even its owners. Yet, the NFL, because of its status, especially with its influence upon youth, absolutely has an obligation to do a far better job of enforcing consistent and resolute policies with some teeth.

And the NFL, unfortunately, has not only failed to just enforce good policies over the past eight years under the helm of Commissioner Roger Goodell, but for decades. He just amped it up a bit when he claimed upon his entrance as commissioner that he would hold players accountable. And now we know not only have his policies been inconsistent and insufficient but more often than not, Goodell put more effort into giving the appearance of leadership, rather than truly being a leader.

But it would be unfair to only point fingers at the NFL, when it comes to enabling criminal and detrimental behaviors. There is plenty of blame to go around, such as with many other private organizations and public entities, including Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the NCAA, to name but a few sports entities that have failed to present a cohesive standard for its players when it comes to criminal behavior.

Gaming the system by the above noted organizations, for example, and the legal jurisdictions in which criminal behavior occurs, do a terrible disservice to not only the community at-large, but to the young men playing sports and for generations of athletes to come.

The politically correct crowd has been self-ordained as the moralists over all of our lives. No longer are we allowed to go askew of its so-called societal parameters, which fail to endorse common sense. The constant "tolerance" of repeated criminal behavior is not tolerant but rather upside down and makes repeated victims out of victims.

But the high profile NFL, which speaks ad nauseam of due process, seemingly is a collaborator with district attorneys, criminal courts, and educators on the amateur levels, in enabling law breakers for the sake of the game. And big sports business and government are on parallel tracks when it comes to saving face, not necessarily for the right reasons, but usually to merely give the appearance of no improprieties.

And given the present climate of our politically correct charged culture, rather than resonating as a shining example of doing the right thing, the NFL is not properly performing its role.

Certainly there are reasons for the moral unrest and sometimes shocking behavior our athletes, which includes, domestic violence, rape, illegal gun possession, drug trafficking, substance abuse, and driving under the influence, amongst other criminal behaviors.

But there is no denying that the significant and continuing loss of the intact family, the broken homes, and homes with multiple parents and even unrelated adults living under the same roof, present a constant upheaval and challenge for many of those children. Many have no more than a brittle foundation from which they are expected to thrive.

Therefore, sports becomes a means to an end; not the original intent of sports and athletics for youth. With a lack of father figures and routine in the homes of many of these boys, it remains up to coaches to help raise them. And due to sports being presented as "the only way out" for these boys, pressure upon them is even more acute for them to excel at sports. Education becomes secondary. And should they prove unsuccessful in the athletic arena, an educational foundation has already shifted.

The original idea of promoting sports was not necessarily to promote professional athletes or bust, but rather to reward good human beings who might turn into positive contributors to our communities. Yet, dollar signs have distorted an already broken system, using young men, many ill-prepared for life's ups and downs, as an endless revenue stream.

Looking the other way and pleading ignorance is no excuse. Moreover, the feigned surprise of criminal violent behavior is certainly not exclusive to the NFL. It, however, along with district attorneys have handled punishment and sentencing with little more than slaps on the wrist going back nearly 20 years.

The NFL, for example, was referenced recently by USA Today Sports regarding courts' criminal records of players from the years 2000 through 2014 that included 735 criminal charges of NFL players. The arrest records included murder, rape, domestic violence, child abuse, drug abuse, drug trafficking, DUI, disorderly conduct, obstruction of justice, and that is not the complete list.

Names such as Jovan Belcher, Rae Carruth, and Aaron Hernandez should not simply be forgotten just because a Ray Rice domestic violence video came to light. Rae Carruth was convicted of murdering his pregnant girlfriend, Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend and then shot himself to death and Aaron Hernandez is awaiting two separate trials for murdering up to three people.

And since 2006, Roger Goodell's inception as commissioner, at least 50 domestic violence cases brought charges for NFL players.

Yet, in lieu of meaningful enforcement and a dispassion to hold its players responsible, the NFL has largely relied upon district attorneys and due process to direct its own personal conduct policies. This, however, coupled with an uneven hand in doling out anything but wrist slaps, with multiple chances for troublemakers to reappear on game day after maybe a game's suspension, has contributed to the now realized outrage on the part of the public.

The aim of this report has not been to point fingers at individuals, for that only helps to conceal the underlying issues needing sunlight. And given so many perpetrators and many player repeat offenders players, not merely just a few as the mainstream media would like us to believe, the NFL cannot simply go it alone.

The National Organization of Women (NOW), every now and again will pop out its head from its proverbial cave to weigh in on issues it mostly remains silent about on a day-to-day basis, especially when it comes to weighty issues that matter to women's daily lives. But when its relevancy wanes, just like any political organization or politician, it goes on the attack. Critical of the NFL's policy on domestic violence, where has the NOW been the past several decades concerning sports, athletes and the NFL and its players' behavior other than during Super Bowl week?

The U.S. Congress copies the same formula. It also recently wrote to the NFL ordering it to get its act together and dangled its not-for-profit business league tax-exempt status in front of it, on its handling of the Ray Rice case. Then there were major NFL sponsors such as McDonald's, Annheuser-Busch, PepsiCo, and Radisson Hotels, to name a few, who pressured the NFL with withdrawn or suspended sponsorships, to get it together. We also heard from Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota demanding the suspension of running back, Adrien Peterson, prior to his indefinite suspension by the Minnesota Vikings, following his being charged with child abuse.

And the deafening silence from the National Football Players Association (NFLPA) was interrupted only long enough to appeal the indefinite suspension of Ray Rice from the NFL, following his dismissal from the Baltimore Ravens.

But what will it take to swing the pendulum back the side of sanity and congruity, in order to rehabilitate our un-well culture of corrupt enablers and politically correct police? It will take more than cobbled together policies of suspension, deactivation and exempt lists, pending the legal process. If we do not take on the collective responsibility and work on a major reset, we will continue on a downward spiral which will eventually descend upon all of us and impact America's civil decency, going forward.

© Diane M. Grassi


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Diane M. Grassi

Diane M. Grassi is an investigative journalist and reporter providing topical and in-depth articles and analysis on U.S. public policy and governmental affairs, including key federal and state legislation as well as court decisions relative to the public interests of average Americans... (more)


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