Column: NFL lets bad boy owners get off with slap on wrist

Aug 5, 2022, 1:20 AM | Updated: 1:21 pm

ARCHIVO - El rapero Ice Cube (derecha) posa con el comisionado de la NFL Roger Goodell durante la p...

ARCHIVO - El rapero Ice Cube (derecha) posa con el comisionado de la NFL Roger Goodell durante la primera ronda de la NFL, el jueves 28 de abril de 2022 en Las Vegas. (AP Foto/John Locher)

(AP Foto/John Locher)

After Donald Sterling’s racist ramblings were exposed to the world, the NBA moved quickly to banish him from the league.

Sure, the forced sale of the Los Angeles Clippers made Sterling even richer, but it sent a clear signal that such behavior would not be tolerated, even from the guys with the biggest checkbooks.

Then there’s the NFL, which seems content to let its bad boy owners slide with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, no matter how egregious the offense.

Tampering with some of the game’s biggest names? Suggesting it would be a good idea to lose games intentionally?

No problem, says the league which likes to throw around the word “integrity” at every opportunity — except when it really matters.

In the eyes of Commissioner Roger Goodell, some mandatory vacation time, a fine that roughly amounts to loose change in the sofa, and surrendering a couple of draft picks should be enough to smooth things over.

That’s exactly what Goodell imposed this week on Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, whose conduct was so reckless that it wouldn’t have been out of line to shove him out the door — or at least give him a gentle nudge.

Of course, in its version of the just-before-the-weekend news dump, the NFL brilliantly unveiled the case against Ross — and it’s quite a doozy — while most fans and pundits were fixated on what’s next for quarterback Deshaun Watson, who received a six-game suspension for multiple allegations of sexual misconduct during massages.

The NFL appealed, which could have sent the case to Goodell for harsher, more appropriate punishment, but he timidly handed it off to an outside arbiter.

The Watson case is bad enough. Ross’ shenanigans were also worthy of outrage.

But Goodell would prefer we all just move along from a week of disturbing revelations and get to what’s really important: a season that conveniently began Thursday night with the Hall of Fame exhibition game in Canton, Ohio.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

The great and powerful commish has spoken!!

By now, it should be crystal clear to everyone that Goodell couldn’t care less about integrity as long as the league’s coffers — and his own — keep growing at a rate far ahead of surging inflation.

Sure, he’ll swing into action when a player who hasn’t been with his team all season dares venture onto a casino app to place legal bets on NFL games. Never mind that the league has fully embraced sports gambling and has no problem cashing all the massive checks it brings in.

Calvin Ridley’s wagering, which he readily admitted to with no suggestion that it impacted games, led to his suspension for at least the 2022 season and means the Atlanta Falcons receiver has no chance to receiving his $11.1 million salary until he’s reinstated.

Compare that with Ross’ case.

Goodell issued a harsh statement, singling out “violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” but showed he didn’t have the stomach to actually back up his words with decisive action.

Sure, the Dolphins will be hurt by the loss of a first-round pick next year and a third-round pick in 2024, but the remainder of the sanctions were laughable.

Ross was fined $1.5 million, which is roughly 0.018% of his estimated net worth of $8.2 billion and a blip compared to the salary Ridley isn’t receiving. Ross also was suspended from his team through Oct. 17, meaning he won’t be around for the first six games of the regular season — at least 11 games fewer than Ridley’s banishment.

Somehow, Goodell was able to justify the disparity of his punishments — maybe because his mind is filled with nothing but dollar signs — even though the league determined Ross improperly negotiated with seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady and former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton while they were working for other teams.

“I know of no prior instance of a team violating the prohibition on tampering with both a head coach and star player, to the potential detriment of multiple other clubs, over a period of several years,” Goodell said. “Similarly, I know of no prior instance in which ownership was so directly involved in the violations.”

The league’s investigation, which grew out of former Dolphins coach Brian Flores filing a racial discrimination lawsuit after his firing, was more vague about Flores’ accusations that Ross offered him $100,000 per game to intentionally lose so Miami would get a better spot in the draft.

While the league found that Ross never followed through on the alleged offer, he did express several times that draft position should take priority over won-loss record.

Goodell — remember, he’s the guy who was so concerned with the integrity of the game in Ridley’s case — appears to have totally brushed off Ross’ clear belief that tanking wasn’t a bad thing, comments that so disturbed Flores he passed them on in writing to senior team executives.

Flores, now an assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers, noted that Ross avoided “any meaningful consequence” even though — and it sounded like he was mocking Goodell here — “there is nothing more important when it comes to the game of football itself than the integrity of the game.”

Of course, Flores and anyone else who has paid of lick of attention to the Goodell regime should have known that Ross would get away with it.

Look no further than Washington owner Dan Snyder, who has faced numerous allegations of a toxic workplace environment without facing any significant punishment.

In a league that truly embraced integrity, Snyder would already be out the door and Ross wouldn’t be far behind.

But Goodell is sending a different message.

Are you ready for some football?!


Paul Newberry is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963


More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://apnews.com/hub/pro-32 and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

Column: NFL lets bad boy owners get off with slap on wrist