It’s very difficult for industries that rely on people’s disposable income to ignore public sentiment, even when that passion is obviously misguided and fueled by emotion instead of logic.
That’s the hard lesson the NFL Players Association needs to teach its members.
The best example of that thesis from the league’s standpoint is the Ray Rice saga in which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed down a two-game suspension that was ridiculed by just about every pundit.
In fact, anyone who saw the video of the ex-Ravens running back knocking out his then-finance and now-wife in an Atlantic City elevator had a tough time stomaching the commissioner’s original decree.
From a purely business perspective, Goodell’s biggest mistake was bowing to public pressure and trying to use a mulligan, something that sparked a double-jeopardy loss in arbitration.
Fast forward, however, and the NFLPA’s concern is how the league has reacted to the criticism it received, often ignoring the legal system during subsequent issues and creating an environment where the NFL itself has launched its own investigations into reported player misconduct.
The NFLPA is so concerned with the evolving investigatory procedures of the league that it has warned all of its agents about the “new world of player investigations” in a memo obtained by the Associated Press.
The biggest concern with the shift seems to be the policy that league investigations are often launched from anonymous complaints and will include things like social media postings, texts and emails.
“The NFL has initiated numerous investigations based merely upon phone calls by alleged victims to the NFL,” the memo explains. “It appears that many people are now aware that they can directly call the NFL to levy allegations against players.”
Common sense says that could open a Pandora’s Box of extortion and revenge, especially when you consider the money certain NFL players make.
The league has denied that there has been any real change in the way it handles these matters since the Rice issue but that just doesn’t hold any water.
The easiest way forward for the NFL, both for consistency and court purposes, remains to rely on the legal process, but Roger Goodell and Co. have proven too weak and ineffective to wag the dog and control the national narrative.
From a player’s standpoint, that could seem scary, but there is an easy way to handle it. Keep your nose clean and there will be no reason for the NFL or anyone else for that matter to look into your behavior.
Perhaps, that’s the lesson the NFLPA should be teaching its constituency.
That or the harsh reality that when public pressure becomes untenable in a high-profile profession, there’s going to be a sacrificial lamb no matter how many complaints – valid or not – there are.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRag Sports.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, CBS Baltimore, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.