Where is Roger? Maybe Sitting Next to You.

Stadium SeatsThe first game of the NFL season was (ironically) the New England Patriots versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. New England won 28 to 21. It was not that close and by the end of the 3rd Quarter, the outcome was not much in doubt. Like them or hate them, the Patriots are good.

Unless you have been in isolation with a lost tribe in the Amazon, you undoubtedly know about “Deflate-gate,” and that at the end of it, the outcome was more deflated than the footballs.

Also by the end of the 3rd Quarter, we began to hear the sing-song chant of the Gillette Stadium crowd singing “Where is Roger?” They were referring to the collective voices of the fans in Foxboro, Massachusetts mocking the commissioner of the NFL. We will probably hear the chant again, maybe in another stadium.

The past year has not been a great year for Roger Goodell. It was not only Tom Brady and Deflate-gate, but Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson‎, domestic violence in general, concussions and concussion protocols, Junior Seau’s Hall of Fame introduction and now an improbable re-visit to Spygate. No one, it seems, likes anything that Roger Goodell does.

What are we reacting to?

Every case I cited above was about unethical, off-the-field behavior or poor off-the-field decision making consequences.

We, as fans, like to blame Roger. We blame him when we feel an injustice or even when we don’t; we get angry when he fails to enforce, or when he does. We want fair play, we want justice, we want him to hear us. His bosses, though, have no complaints. Why should they?

There are 32 NFL team ownership groups and each is extremely wealthy. The NFL has never been healthier or richer.

Where is Roger? He is in meetings with ownership groups, an extensive NFL staff and engaging the sea of media that watches his every move. Roger manages, delegates and represents. He is an expert in what he does and he is extremely successful at walking a political tight-rope.

Am I defending Roger Goodell? Not at all – in fact, he doesn’t need my defense. Don’t for a second believe your relationship with Roger Goodell is currently more important than his relationship with Robert Kraft or Jerry Jones or any other owner. As long as we just grumble or shrug our shoulders, for the most part he could care less.

The ethical choice

One day the ownership group may tell Roger to “take a powder” or one day, he may feel he has saved enough of his $38 million per year salary to walk away on his own. Either way the precious shield will survive.

If, by now, you are feeling, “What’s the use then?” That is not my message at all. We, as fans, tend to forget how the NFL became so powerful. Roger did not make it powerful, we did, we fans. Our passion, support and loyalty translated into franchises climbing in value from being worth a few thousand, to now selling for billions.

The NFL is ultimately not about Roger or the 32 owners, it is about us. It depends on whether we as fans want policy change or whether we are content to chant dumb things in our seats. Many of us believe the NFL only derives its strength from the top down; it also works from the bottom up.

If we want the NFL or a specific team to change its policies toward domestic violence or any other glaring problem, we collectively have the power to apply pressure.

We can blast a particular franchise, the owners and commissioner on the social media; not for one hour’s trending, but for days and weeks if necessary; we can picket, boycott, and not buy jerseys. Whatever we need to do. The same pressures can also be directed toward the NFLPA when they stick by an athlete who should be out of the league. We don’t have to be lawyers, just fans.

If we truly care about the ethics of a situation we can exert influence. The NFL running a few PSA’s (public service announcements) on domestic violence is not a solution, making them institute and maintain policies is the obvious road to take.

We do have power as fans; what we haven’t had is the belief in ourselves that we, can force ethical change. It is long overdue.

Where is Roger? Ultimately, who cares? The question is where are we?


 For more information on Sports Ethics LLC:

Chuck Gallagher, President  (828) 244-1400






















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