On Tuesday night, word emerged of the Missouri Supreme Court concluding that Commissioner Roger Goodell is incapable of being a truly neutral arbitrator in cases involving one of the 32 owners who employ him.
Eventually, Goodell will have to make important decisions in a case involving a very influential owner. An owner who publicly, staunchly, and repeatedly defended Goodell when he was under siege for his office’s handling of the Ray Rice case. An owner who is one of only three who determine every year what Goodell does — or doesn’t — earn for his efforts.
Can Roger Goodell be truly neutral and independent when it comes to the punishment that will be imposed on the Patriots and on quarterback Tom Brady? Sure, owner Robert Kraft’s statement indicates in the final paragraph that he’ll accept whatever the consequences are. But every paragraph in the statement before acceptance contained plenty of anger, denial, bargaining, and depression.
Goodell’s statement from Wednesday points out that executive V.P. of football operations “Troy Vincent and his team will consider what steps to take in light of the report, both with respect to possible disciplinary action and to any changes in protocols that are necessary to avoid future incidents of this type.” Many have interpreted this to mean that Goodell will wash his hands of the matter by deferring to Vincent.
Surely, that won’t happen. Especially if/when punishment is imposed on quarterback Tom Brady. Under the labor deal, the Commissioner has final say over the discipline.
Typically, the suspicion is that “The Enforcer” puts his thumb on the scales when it comes to player punishment. With Brady, the suspicion will be that Goodell may be inclined to go easy, given his relationship with Kraft.
Either way, Goodell’s decision will receive extra scrutiny. Which means that the best move could be to appoint someone else to handle it.
Former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue would make the most sense. But after Taglibue’s handling of the Saints bounty scandal in 2012, it’s highly unlikely that Goodell would risk another not-so-subtle rebuke from his predecessor — especially since it seems that one or more people working for Goodell failed to let him know about the issue, possibly due to concerns that Goodell personally would have given the Patriots the warning that they otherwise didn’t receive.