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As you may have read, the NFL is in the early stages of a new civil war. Two of the NFL’s most unpopular figures are facing off: Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell. What started out over something seemingly trivial(though it’s not), looks to escalate into something that could divide the league yet unite football fans. Roger Goodell has been hated by fans for years for many unarticulated reasons, however ever since the Ray Rice video, the NFL has undergone years, of bad distractions starting with domestic violence, blowing up over deflategate, and peaking with anthem protesting. All of this in in the litany of issues, Jones can use to usurp Roger Goodell from his Commissioner title with the NFL.
Star running back Ezekiel Elliott finds himself as the centerpiece of this battle. His legal battle to overturn his suspension was the preseason for a larger showdown. Reports have surfaced suggesting Jones was assured by Goodell that Elliott would serve no time. This assurance prompted Jones to vote in favor of the process of a committee going forward with renewing Goodell’s contract. However, Goodell reneged his promise to Jones and suspended Elliott anyway. this comes after police filed no charges, and text messages have surfaced that Tiffany Thompson was merely trying to blackmail, Elliott. Goodell punished Elliott for battering Tiffany Thompson even though the lone NFL investigator who interviewed Thompson did not find sufficient evidence to support Thompson’s accusations. So Goodell suspended Elliott for nothing. What else is Jerry Jones to take that as other than a smackdown to show that he’s in charge and a petty slap against the Dallas Cowboys’ ability to compete?
Jones Not Alone
The fans are behind Jones because they dislike Goodell, but no one cares about the fans, sadly. Jerry Jones may look to find an ally in the NFLPA, the union for players. Following the Ezekiel Elliott case they lost, they issued this statement
On behalf of all players, the Union appealed the suspension of Ezekiel Elliott to its logical conclusion and we are withdrawing our lawsuit.
Our vigilant fight on behalf of Ezekiel once again exposed the NFL’s disciplinary process as a sham and a lie. They hired several former federal prosecutors, brought in “experts” and imposed a process with the stated goal of “getting it right,” yet the management council refuses to step in and stop repeated manipulation of an already awful League-imposed system.
In truth, the NFLPA has no one to blame but themselves. They were a part of the process which gave Roger Goodell carte blanche with league discipline and it has been a disaster ever since. They helped create the monster during their last collective bargaining negotiations. However, in recognizing this failing, they may be eager to join Jerry Jones in his fight. This would be a credible ally that would make Jones seem less like a loose cannon.
History of Goodell’s success
One of the main selling point under Roger Goodell has been the increasing pie for NFL owners. Jerry Jones, specifically, has been a benefactor of Goodell’s leadership for many years.
CBS Sports: Cowboys dominate Forbes’ 2017 list of most valuable NFL franchises, Bills rank last
According to Forbes, the five most valuable franchises in the world are the Cowboys ($4.8 billion), the Patriots ($3.7 billion), the New York Yankees ($3.7 billion) along with soccer clubs Manchester United ($3.69 billion) and FC Barcelona ($3.64 billion).
This year, 27 of the league’s 32 teams are worth over $2 billion, and three of the teams that aren’t — the Browns, Bengals, and Buccaneers — will likely hit that number in the near future.
One team that didn’t see a huge jump was the Chargers. Although the Rams got a huge boost when they moved to L.A. in 2016 — they jumped from the 28th most valuable team to the sixth most valuable — the Chargers only saw a slight increase. Since moving from San Diego, the team’s value has gone from $2.08 billion to $2.275 billion.
Ratings may tank Goodell
The NFL boycott is real and is deeply reflected in the ratings decrease. NFL owners can’t be blind to the hurt they are getting by the ratings drop, attendance decline, dip in merchandise sales, and tainted relationship with major sponsors. However, as colleague Scott Byrd would suggest, this is just the beginning. These are Goodell’s biggest threats to his continued tenure and unfortunately, they are all financially tied. A while back, I previously wrote about how the NFL could hemorrhage the bleeding.
How the NFL can stop and possibly reverse the bleeding
Force Players to Stand For the National Anthem
Seriously, this shouldn’t even be debatable at this point. Get the politics out of football. The players have angered so many fans that the rating drops are accelerating. Players disrespecting the anthem is a direct cause of fans turning them off. You can’t expect to increase ratings when players alienate fans. Regardless of how you feel about the issue, the NFL has a fiduciary duty to implement and enforce a policy to keep the politics out of football. If they want a ratings bounce, they better listen to those who boycott. Football is supposed to be American. It should be a reminder of why we love our country. When that reminder is replaced by players protesting the anthem, the brand is tarnished. The NFL has a brand issue they need to fix.
End Regional Broadcasting
In 2017, there is no reason that a Broncos fan in Miami can’t watch their team except with DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket. I grew up with that, and it’s a great service. However, people are cord-cutting. Cable is increasingly losing its firm grip on entertainment with streaming services. NFL should offer streaming on their website that has no regional broadcast restrictions. It doesn’t even have to be free. This is a way for the NFL to modernize. They are already expanding their own streaming capabilities, but the only live games you can watch on NFL.com are out of market preseason games. How useless is that? Allow people who follow a team to pay for a package to watch that team every Sunday. It’s not that hard.
Written Rules for Player Discipline
How long should a player be suspended for in domestic violence cases? The amount of time is less important than the equal standard it should be from Josh Brown to Ray Rice. The NFL needs consistency. Otherwise, these scandals are a distraction from the football.
Due Process for Player Discipline
The NFL should defer to the legal system and not their own investigating. They are obviously terrible at it. In the case of Ezekiel Elliott, they suspended him when the police dropped the case. Furthermore, in the process, the NFL ignored evidence that exonerated Elliott. This was an unnecessary legal battle and distraction that the NFL really doesn’t need. It’s been proven that Elliott’s accuser was lying, but the NFL insists on a four-game suspension. Skip the NFL investigating process, and just defer to the legal system. If police drop charges, no suspension. If acquitted, no suspension. If they plead no contest, suspension. Players need to be proven innocent. And obviously, suspend when found guilty.
Stay At Home
This one is aimed at the San Diego Chargers. Abandoning the San Diego Market to pursue the Los Angeles dream would have been a good idea, if the Rams hadn’t already done it first. Now they gave their original fanbase a free pass to either lose interest or cheer for a different team. Stupid move. It’s great when the NFL gives back to the community, but abandoning your market shows how little you truly cared. Perhaps the Raiders should stay in Oakland. In pursuit of LA, the NFL lost the St. Louis market. San Diego and St. Louis are sizable markets. They can support multiple sports teams. If anything, the Jaguars should relocate, but they are investing in England for a possible relocation across the pond in the long-term future. When franchises relocate, it can devastate a community and turn people away from the sport. It’s very possible that these relocations have contributed to ratings declines. And so this should cease. As a side note, the Las Vegas move is not a terrible idea considering the city’s space and growth. But I don’t think the Raiders should be the ones to move. To clarify, It’s the stupid relocations that must stop.
Much of my five ways to stop the bleeding have only been validated with time, like the Chargers’ move to LA resulting in only a small increase in valuation. The internet also poses a threat that Roger Goodell seems behind on. Time is of the essence. If the NFL doesn’t change its ways, it could lose relevance in more households perhaps losing a generation of fans if this continues for however long Goodell’s contract is extended for. Rating declines only serve to make the NFL, and by extension football, less relevant.
Luckily Jerry Jones is opposing Goodell for more reasons than just Ezekiel Elliott, although that’s huge. Also, Jerry Jones has a history of suing and winning against the NFL. He is the best chance of saving the NFL. The NFL needs to act on its fiduciary duty to end these PR nightmares. And part of acting on that duty entails the removal of Roger Goodell. Jerry Jones is championing the fight. And while he isn’t quite the hero we wanted, he is the hero we need and deserve to save the NFL from itself. Who knows what the endgame is? But it’s hard to imagine, Jerry Jones succeeding makes the NFL’s situation worse. Usurping Goodell is the first piece in saving the NFL, but far from the last.
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