As the Vikings tripped and skipped and clumsily changed course while trying to balance the post-Rice reality of the NFL with the desire to get something in return for the millions to be paid to a face-of-the-franchise player, the league office had nothing to say publicly.
Well, not nothing. The league office said over the weekend that the child-abuse charges against Adrian Peterson would be reviewed under the personal-conduct policy. Other than that, crickets.
While in recent years the league office has been willing to empower teams to fashion remedies for rough situations, failure to say or do anything (other than to say the case would be reviewed) in the wake of the release of evidence making it obvious that (1) Peterson did what he’s accused of doing and (2) the pictures of the injuries to his four-year-old son were hard to look at, the league office stuck its head in the sand.
On one hand, it confirms that the league office has reacted to the Ray Rice fiasco by adopting a siege mentality. On the other hand, it has created a reality in which the league office allowed the Vikings to bumble and fumble their way through a maze of mirrors, harming if not destroying the franchise’s credibility and creating a league-wide problem that, in the wake of the team’s initial decision to let Peterson return, eclipsed the coverup-is-worse-than-the-crime scandal that emerged last week when the Rice video surfaced.
Setting aside the question of whether the not-so-independent investigation by Robert Mueller or the Ray Rice appeal or some other vehicle will generate evidence that triggers a decision by the owners to change Commissioners, the lingering inability of the Commissioner to be the Commissioner could result in a decision by the owners to change Commissioners.
While obvious that Roger Goodell couldn’t attend the first regular-season game ever at Levi’s Stadium, it was nevertheless stunning that the Commissioner of the NFL couldn’t attend an NFL game. Now, with no public words or actions from the Commissioner in connection with media, fan, and sponsor reaction that cried out for visible leadership, the owners have to wonder whether they still actually even have a Commissioner.
Ditto for the Panthers, who are grasping and flailing their way through the Greg Hardy case, with no public comment or action from the league office. Ditto for the 49ers, who are forced to continue to defend their decision to let Ray McDonald play his way through a domestic violence investigation with no words of support from 345 Park Avenue.
It creates a clear impression that the Commissioner consciously is avoiding any situation for which he could be further criticized, especially where the facts have any similarity to the Rice case. At some point, it could result in the owners realizing that, regardless of how things got to this point, a new Commissioner is needed simply because the current Commissioner can’t currently be the Commissioner.