On Friday morning, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appeared on NBC’s Today to discuss the league’s ongoing campaign for breast cancer awareness. He shared his own personal story regarding the impact of the disease — his mother died of breast cancer in 1984. She initially waited four months to see a doctor even though she knew that she had a lump; part of the purpose of the NFL’s campaign is to ensure that women seek medical care quickly and immediately.
Co-host Matt Lauer then turned the focus to the dominant NFL story of the week: the Brett Favre investigation.
“We’re gathering all the facts, Matt,” Goodell said. “We want to make sure that we understand exactly what happened. We also want to make sure that everybody in the NFL, whether you’re a player, coach, Commissioner, recognize the responsibility that we all have to the public, to the people who follow our game. When we get the facts, we’ll apply the Personal Conduct Policy.”
Lauer then asked whether Goodell has spoken to Favre about the matter: “I have not.”
As to whether Favre could be suspended, Goodell declined specific comment. “I’m not going to speculate on what we do, Matt, other than we apply the policy whether you’re a high profile player or not,” Goodell said. “To us, it’s a responsibility of playing the game, and the responsibility we have to our fans.”
We hope that’s the case. At times, it seems that the league’s discipline isn’t driven by a desire to consistently and fairly apply the rules to all players, but by a desire to manage — and to avoid — P.R. problems. Indeed, the Favre case first hit the radar screen in early August, generating little notice despite Jenn Sterger’s claim that she received lewd photos from Favre. After the league acknowledged that it was investigating the existence of a pre-NFL sex tape created by Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes, Greg Aiello gave us a cryptic non-answer answer to the question of whether the Favre situation was being reviewed.
“One can assume that we look into everything that is relevant, whether we
say so or not,” Aiello said at the time. “This is not a confirmation of anything.”
One can reasonably assume that the league didn’t fully investigate the situation then because doing so would have made something that wasn’t a story into a story. Once the voice messages and photos were released and the story became a story, the P.R. realities forced the NFL to mobilize an investigation.