DANNY ONEIL

After Laremy Tunsil’s slide, Roger Goodell showed lack of compassion

Apr 29, 2016, 1:25 PM | Updated: 1:27 pm
“I think it's all part of what makes the draft so exciting,” Roger Goodell said about Laremy Tu...
“I think it's all part of what makes the draft so exciting,” Roger Goodell said about Laremy Tunsil's costly slide. (AP)
(AP)

Exciting.

That was the adjective that the NFL commissioner used Thursday to describe an attempt to publicly humiliate and professionally sabotage a freshly hired 21-year-old employee in his league.

The plot included hacked social-media accounts, potential NCAA violations and a bong affixed to a gas mask being worn by a player who as recently as a month ago was considered the most talented prospect available in the draft.

But we’ll get to Laremy Tunsil in a second. He may be the one guy who handled the situation the most admirably while others (like me) were cracking jokes and Roger Goodell was describing the whole situation like a compelling TV show.

Tunsil was projected as a potential No. 1 pick two months ago. As recently as Thursday, most assumed he would be chosen in the top 10. He was picked 13th overall by Miami.

“I think it’s all part of what makes the draft so exciting,” Goodell said, according to ESPN. “Clubs make decisions. Sometimes they take risks. Sometimes they do the right things. Sometimes they don’t, and we’ll see. Hopefully he is going to turn out to be a great young player.”

Think about that for a second. This is the guy that is in charge of a league so popular that the simple administrative act of dividing up the incoming employees is a significant – and lucrative – television event. And at that event, one of the very best of those potential employees is on site, wearing a suit in front of TV cameras as he watches how much his professional prospects have been damaged after someone posted to his Twitter account a video of him smoking what we all assume is marijuana.

Actually, that kind of undersells it. It was a video of Tunsil smoking from a bong that was affixed to a gas mask, which is eventually removed to reveal his face. The image itself is absurd, and for small-minded people (like me), the fodder for instant jokes. How high was Tunsil going to be drafted? How was his bowl performance? Would drafting him be a joint decision for a team?

It wasn’t very compassionate. It certainly wasn’t a laughing matter to Tunsil. But I’m also not the commissioner of that league, who thought the drama surrounding Tunsil was part of “what makes the draft exciting.”

So let’s stop for a second and look at what actually happened here. This was an attempt to not only embarrass Tunsil, but it was timed specifically to undermine his draft hopes. There can be no other explanation. The activity itself isn’t all that big of a deal. Smoking marijuana in college doesn’t disqualify a player from being drafted. In fact, if teams were honest, they aren’t worried about whether a player has smoked marijuana so much as whether the player’s use of marijuana has gotten him suspended or prevented him from playing. Even players who are suspended for using drugs in college are drafted all the time, though not without a certain amount of hand-wringing.

Thursday’s drama really wasn’t about drug use so much as that it was an extreme image of apparent drug use. Not only that, it was released at the precise moment it could inflict maximum damage to Tunsil personally and professionally. There was nowhere for him to hide from the scrutiny while teams were forced to make an in-the-moment decision on whether Tunsil is a good enough player to deal with all the scrutiny and explanations that would be required after his selection.

It’s really sad for Tunsil and anyone who cares about him, which you would presume would include the man in charge of the league he was just drafted into.

Instead, Goodell chose “exciting,” which was certainly appropriate in one respect: Tunsil’s story was the single most captivating drama on Thursday. It played out in true reality-TV fashion from the shocking nature of the video to the real-time impact it had on the draft process to Tunsil’s reaction afterward.

And of all the people involved in this story, Tunsil was the one who handled himself most admirably. He didn’t leave the draft after the video was released. He didn’t refuse to answer questions afterward. He didn’t make jokes at someone else’s misfortune or claim that the video was doctored.

Tunsil repeatedly said he was blessed to be drafted into the NFL, the commissioner of which showed very little compassion or empathy for what happened to him.

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After Laremy Tunsil’s slide, Roger Goodell showed lack of compassion