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Roger Goodell failed, just like he was supposed to

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Remember now what a blank social boffin the NFL strapped to its face to begin with: a Senator's son from a safety school who quite literally never worked anywhere else but in the sports job he got directly out of college. Roger Goodell's resume is a hollow blandishment of institutional servitude. He fought in the arbitration wars; he coordinated the events. Calendars were heroically arranged.

That is who the NFL owners put in charge of their promotional arm and public face. That is not who the NFL owners are, a grab bag of the rich, idle rich, and charismatic psychopaths who end up with the kind of money to purchase an NFL franchise. There are familial dynasties like the Rooneys and Maras. There are lunatic confidence men like Jerry Jones who literally struck it rich, and workaholic basement millionaires like Steve Bisciotti. Capture them and place them in a habitat, and you would have a pretty good exhibition of the diverse ways to become wealthy and totally unaccountable to anyone.

Wealth doesn't do that alone, though, at least not in the mechanical sense. You need a vector: the corporation. Jimmy Haslam, owner of the Browns, did not go to jail for taking part in a scheme to willfully defraud minority gas station owners of millions as the head of Pilot Flying J. A $92 million payment was enough to get the government off his back, and get him back to the business of running the NFL's most benighted front office. Zygi Wilf also used cash to settle a claim he defrauded partners in a real estate scam. Dan Snyder has never met a problem not solved with a fountain of cash, including purchasing the cooperation and/or silence of the DC media. NFL owners, as a group, solve almost all of their problems with cash. (Except building their stadiums, which suddenly becomes a matter of public interest and money, an effort funded and lobbied primarily with more cash.)

Goodell pullquote

So the first mistake you made in considering any of this was thinking of the NFL as something designed to create accountability. It is not. It is a non-profit* corporation designed to market the NFL and serve as a bargaining front for the league's franchises, the ones which are themselves giant shields with animal and cartoon faces for logos. Roger Goodell was not playing serious courtmaster from the start. He is, by design, a talking PR and marketing piñata. Get angry and hit him, and he belches out caramels and suspensions until your anger is appeased. Two games? The sound of hitting, and more belching of caramels. How about six games? Hold the stick, and think you've done something in the effort.

*No, really.

Maybe you have. The NFL now has a tougher domestic violence policy after all this, and that could be a very good thing. It also took forever to get to that point, because here's the other thing about corporations: they exist to not only divide liability, but are built to not even understand the concept as it applies to them. They are built without the eyes to see it, or the conscience to process it. The NFL has now fought against any claims of CTE damage or concussion injuries for decades, and still uses Dr. Elliot Pellman as a medical expert on the subject. Pellman was former commissioner Paul Tagliabue's personal physician, and a rheumatologist by trade. They are making it up because the answer is always the same by design: this is not our fault, and please consult those we have paid to document our not-faultedness.

Roger Goodell was not playing serious courtmaster from the start. He is, by design, a talking PR and marketing piñata.

To demand morality from the NFL is to ask ontological questions of an ATM. It has no ears, and only one response: please insert card. When it needs to present the impression of caring, it hires that talking piñata, usually someone tall, pedigreed, and just bland enough to seem authoritative. And when the bank does something the customer does not like, it takes a stick and whacks the living crap out of the piñata until it gets what it wants or feels better.

Eventually that piñata folds like a paper bag in an actual moral crisis, and suggests that it has lost the package, or cannot recall the exact events of that day. Then it is easily and swiftly replaced, albeit after a six- to twelve-month succession planning period accompanied by a very large retirement/exit package.

That part isn't hard: they're cheap, hollow, and made at every major college in the United States and sold for various prices. It's how the NFL does things, and it's how we do everything. You need another one, you just go to Harvard or Princeton or Michigan Law, or dig up another Senator's son with an Augusta National Membership and some time on his hands. They tend to hang around there. They fail every time. It is exactly what they are designed to do.