My first ever article as a Sports Debater was written about the Bounty Gate scandal, specifically, my feeling that the entire issue was overblown. It appeared to me that the accused parties were involved in a system that has deep roots in NFL locker rooms and that Roger Goodell had no right to punish the players involved to the degree that he did. The entire scenario seemed like a witch hunt in which the NFL higher-ups sat around the table in a Salem meeting house and threw out players names to execute publicly, with the intention of scaring the rest of the league. Jonathan Vilma was burned at the stake, while Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita were tarred and feathered.
Let’s fast forward 7 months. Today, ex-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who has been asked to oversee and make a decision on the case as an objective arbitrator, found that Goodell’s original penalties were way too harsh. Tagliabue, who looked at the same exact evidence Goodell made his original ruling on, said today that all evidence had clearly been tainted and did not warrant suspensions or serious fines.
I have no idea how two men could look at the same evidential material and formulate such different opinions on the matter. How is it possible that one man believed Jonathan Vilma should be suspended for a complete season, losing all his pay and his reputation while another believed his actions didn’t warrant a serious fine?
When the news of a scandal broke, Roger Goodell needed to act quick. He felt as if the Saints had deceived the NFL and it was his job to come down as hard on them as possible. He suspended Head Coach Sean Payton for a full season and the defensive coordinator indefinitely. He punished all players who were “linked” with this scandal in a magnitude never seen before in league history. Goodell acted as the judge, jury and executioner and now he looks like the biggest asshole of all.
The commissioner has caused much more damage to the league than the bounty scandal itself. In a democratic country that is built around systems of checks and balances so that the rulings made by the leaders of our country can be transparent, Roger Goodell acted as a king, as a dictator. In his kingdom, one of the villages acted out of order and he took it upon himself to punish and ultimately doom all of the citizens involved. Lord Goodell didn’t want to have a fair, honest investigation into the matter. He wanted to see people suffer, so he painted a scarlet letter across the Saints that will linger for years. Then Roger Goodell sat on his throne far away from New Orleans, smiling as the Saints struggled to a 5-8 record. Now, like all evil dictators in world history, it is time for Mr. Goodell to pay the price for his arrogance.