Column: NFL lets bad boy owners get off with a slap on the wrist

After Donald Sterling’s racist ramblings were exposed to the world, the NBA moved quickly to ban him from the league.

Of course, the forced sale of the Los Angeles Clippers made Sterling even richer, but it sent a clear signal that such behavior would not be tolerated, even from the guys with the biggest checkbooks.

Then there’s the NFL, which seems content to let its bad boy owners slide with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, no matter how bad the offense.

Traffic some of the biggest names in the game? Suggesting that it would be a good idea to intentionally lose games?

No problem, says the league, which likes to throw in the word “integrity” at every opportunity – except when it really matters.

In Commissioner Roger Goodell’s eyes, a mandatory vacation, a fine that’s roughly equivalent to couch change and the handing over of a few draft picks should be enough to smooth things over.

That’s exactly what Goodell imposed this week about Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, whose driving was so reckless that it wouldn’t have been out of place to push him out — or at least nudge him.

Of course, in its version of the news dump just before the weekend, the NFL brilliantly unveiled the case against Ross – and it’s pretty doozy – while most fans and pundits obsessed over the sequel. quarterback Deshaun Watson, who received a six-game suspension for multiple allegations of sexual misconduct during massages.

The NFL appealed, which could have sent the case to Goodell for a harsher and more appropriate punishment, but he tentatively handed it over. to an outside arbitrator.

The Watson case is bad enough. Ross’ shenanigans were also worthy of outrage.

But Goodell would rather we all move on from a week of disturbing revelations to what’s really important: a season that started conveniently on Thursday night. with the Hall of Fame exhibition game in Canton, Ohio.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

The great and mighty commissioner has spoken!!

By now, it should be abundantly clear to everyone that Goodell cares no less about integrity as long as the league’s coffers – and his own – continue to grow at a rate well above surging inflation. .

Of course, it will spring into action when a player who hasn’t been with his team all season dares to venture onto a casino app to place legal bets on NFL games. Never mind that the league has fully embraced sports play and has no problem cashing all the massive checks it brings in.

Calvin Ridley’s gamble, which he readily admitted without suggesting it impacted games, led to his suspension for at least the 2022 season and means the Atlanta Falcons wide receiver has no chance of receiving his $11.1 million salary until he is reinstated.

Compare this with the case of Ross.

Goodell issued a harsh statement, pointing to “violations of unprecedented scale and gravity”, but showed he lacked the courage to back up his words with decisive action.

Sure, the Dolphins will be hurt by losing a first-round pick next year and a third-round pick in 2024, but the rest of the penalties were laughable.

Ross was fined $1.5 million, which is about 0.018% of his estimated net worth of $8.2 billion and a hit compared to the salary Ridley is not receiving. Ross has also been suspended from his team until October 17, meaning he won’t be around for the first six games of the regular season – at least 11 games short of Ridley’s ban.

Somehow, Goodell was able to justify the disparity in his punishments – perhaps because his mind is filled with nothing but dollar signs – even though the league determined that Ross badly negotiated with the sevenfold. Super Bowl winner Tom Brady and former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton while working for other teams.

“I know of no previous example of a team breaching the ban on tampering with both a head coach and a star player, to the potential detriment of multiple other clubs, over a period of years,” Goodell said. “Similarly, I know of no prior instance in which the property was so directly implicated in the violations.”

The league’s investigation, which arose after former Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed a racial discrimination lawsuit after he was fired, was more vague about Flores’ accusations that Ross offered him 100,000 $ per game to intentionally lose so Miami gets a better draft spot.

Although the league found that Ross never followed up on the alleged offer, he repeatedly expressed that the draft position should take priority over the lost-earnings record.

Goodell – remember, he’s the guy who was so concerned about the integrity of the game in Ridley’s case – seems to have totally brushed off Ross’ clear belief that tanking wasn’t a bad thing, comments that bothered Flores so much that he passed them on in writing to the team’s senior executives.

Flores, now a Pittsburgh Steelers assistant, noted that Ross was avoiding “any meaningful consequence” even though – and it seemed like he was mocking Goodell here – “there is nothing more important when it comes to football itself as the integrity of the game.”

Of course, Flores and everyone else who paid the Goodell diet a little heed should have known that Ross would get away with it.

Look no further than Washington owner Dan Snyder, who faced numerous allegations of a toxic work environment without facing significant punishment.

In a league that truly embraced integrity, Snyder would already be out the door and Ross wouldn’t be far behind.

But Goodell sends a different message.

Are you ready for some football? !


Paul Newberry is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at) or


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