What was lack of transparency in August has become an exercise in damage control in October, with a league office that wasn’t saying anything before Giants kicker Josh Brown received a one-game suspension saying plenty, now that public and media reaction has been loud and negative in the wake of the disclosure of information that the league could have/should have had before it disciplined Brown the first time.
Commissioner Roger Goodell recently attributed the bad optics not to bad decisions by the league or bad work by its investigators but, essentially, to bad brains on the part of those reacting to the circumstances.
“I understand the public’s misunderstanding of those things and how that can be difficult for them to understand how we get to those positions,” Goodell told BBC as part of the pre-Giants-Rams media push, via SNY.tv. “But those are things that we have to do. I think it’s a lot deeper and a lot more complicated than it appears but it gets a lot of focus.”
Currently getting plenty of focus is the treatment of Brown, whose case has now been re-opened given the emergence of evidence that the league previously didn’t have.
“Well you have to go and get the facts,” Goodell said. “We have asked repeatedly for those facts and the information that’s been gathered by law enforcement both orally and in writing. And we weren’t able to get access to it. So you have to make decisions on whatever information you have. We take this issue incredibly seriously. This is something we’ve been working on with policy changes, to educating our players to make sure they understand how they deal with issues with their family, give them resources to be able to deal with this.
“But when it happens we’re not going to tolerate it. So we have some new information here, we’ll evaluate that in the context of our policy and we’ll take it from there.”
The problem for the league is that it believed something happened to justify a one-game suspension of Brown, but made no meaningful effort (or really any effort at the time) to explain why the NFL had deviated from its supposed baseline of six games for one incident of domestic violence. Which makes phrases like “when it happens we’re not going to tolerate it” sound hollow and meaningless.
Important questions remain regarding how the Brown case got to this point, and we’ll have some specific answers on Sunday night’s edition of Football Night in America on NBC.