Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Is Roger Goodell really walking the talk?

Last Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Tom Lewand, President of the Detroit Lions, for 30 days for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.  Lewand was arrested in Roscommon County, Michigan for suspicion of DUI on June 25 with a blood-alcohol level of .21, more than twice the legal limit in that state.  He pleaded guilty to driving while impaired last month.  As part of his discipline, Lewand was also fined $100,000 and must participate in community service.

When the incident happened, many wondered if the commissioner would discipline an executive for DUI.  In reply to media inquiries, Goodell confirmed that the personal conduct policy is not just for players, but also for all employees of the NFL, including himself.  Since then, players have been watching and listening intently to see how Goodell would handle the situation.  Well, the commissioner walked the talk and demonstrated that he is serious about all NFL employees upholding the personal conduct policy.  I’m just not sure that it was with the same pace or swagger as it would have been for players.

While Lewand was hit with a hefty fine and will not be able to affiliate with the team for 30 days, I do not think that this is as damaging as a penalty that a player would have faced.  Sure, Lewand will not be able to go to the Lions’ facilities, attend games, participate in league meetings or represent the Lions publicly unless it is a community service event focused on alcohol abuse and safe driving. However, none of this starts until August 25. 

How is this punishment?

Lewand’s suspension begins after training camp. 

After two preseason games. 

After rookie contracts are negotiated and signed. 

These are important activities for a team president to participate in.  So, he will not be in the meetings when rosters are cut down to 75 players on August 31.  He will not be included in the discussion to cut down the roster to 53 players on September 4.  However, after participating in training camp and witnessing new players in a couple of preseason games, I’m confident that he will be able to share his opinion before his month long departure.

Yes, Lewand will miss the Lions’ first two regular season games at Chicago (September 12) and at home against Philadelphia (September 19) before returning to his responsibilities on September 24.  However, this is not detrimental to Lewand or the team.  A player missing those two games would be. 

Goodell made an attempt to walk the talk, but I will not give him kudos until he removes executives from the decisions or activities that they play a key role in as part of their discipline.  Lewand’s suspension is like suspending a player in April and saying that he cannot attend voluntary OTAs.  (Who cares?) 

Lewand not being permitted to finish the negotiations for, Ndamukong Suh, the Lions’s first round draft pick, would be more comparable to players missing some games.  Imagine the Lions without their Juris Doctor and math-wiz in the boardroom negotiating the deal for the 2nd overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft.  The guy who has negotiated player contracts totaling more than $1 billion.  This would be damaging and show that Goodell is really walking the talk.

Heels &  Helmets


  1. At least he's giving equal justice...

  2. Heels n', What about income? When a player is suspended doesn't he lose income? Would a salaried exec lose 4 weeks of income while "suspended" by the league?

  3. Great point. Players have been fined and suspended without pay. Lewand was fined but will get his salary during his suspension. He is the first executive to be suspended. Until now, owners, execs and coaches have only been fined. I think Goodell suspended him because they are still working on the CBA. With the players and teams at war, he wanted to prove to the players that he could be harsh on management as well. Everything that Lewand will miss in-person, he will get from tapes and meeting minutes.