Commentary

Roger's Tree House: No Girlz Allowed

Allow me to continue to beat an immensely rich, very stubborn -- but nowhere near-dead -- horse.

Obviously, the NFL is in deep trouble over its badly bungled handling of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson domestic abuse scandals. TV viewership hasn’t been affected yet. But over the course of the heightened scrutiny, the League’s continued corporate hypocrisy, stonewalling and willful ignorance on the subject of domestic violence has become painfully clear.

Players get paid millions of dollars to routinely hurt and knock each other unconscious on the field, and are idolized for it. So it’s not inconceivable that it’s hard for them to detach from this conduct off the field.

What is inconceivable in this 24/7 news coverage and social media universe, however, is that the NFL had no comprehensive or consistent standards or procedures in place for dealing with the players who commit these acts. (Nor does it offer enough preventive education for players and staff.)

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In an effort to be “transparent,” Roger Goodell held a 45- minute press conference last Friday that was more like a piece of stiff Commish-bot theater. In that entire time, Goodell never uttered the words “women” or “victims” once. (It was left to the press to bring them up in questions afterwards.) Rather, it was an exercise in distancing, with the commissioner making use of the English language in  much the same passive-evasive way that Nixon explained Watergate: “Mistakes were made.”

Except, in this case, some PR crisis management person thought it would be a good thing for Goodell to repeatedly focus on  “getting our house in order.”

So isn’t it downright weird to refer to the NFL as his “house” -- but still not have a clue about the nature of domestic violence -- at a conference devoted to that subject?

Perhaps that’s because the dwelling he’s getting in order is more like a corporate fortress or clubhouse, the equivalent of a little boy’s fort or tree house with a big sign outside: “No Girlz Allowed.”

But for adult men, such a clubhouse is not so cute. Lives are at stake. The awful truth is that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has a history of domestic violence, including an incident in which he allegedly threatened to murder an ex-girlfriend and beat her young son last year, according to London’s Daily Mail. As has been all over the news, he gave his four-year-old a “whooping” with a switch, leaving welts and open sores, and also hurt another of his sons last year. According to TMZ, he had yet another son whom he met for the first time while the son was on life support (he later died), a victim of a beating by his mother’s boyfriend. 

Of course, it’s not just an NFL problem. Judges have routinely let Peterson off with a warning or a sentence of counseling.

But in that horrifying, context, for Goodell to say, “We will reexamine, enhance, and improve, and we will do more,” is beyond useless. Those are words more suited to advertising a floor wax -- or a power-washing process -- than a press conference. “These are problems we are committed to addressing,” he said, moving his lips but not saying anything. Afterwards, when asked about specifics, he answered, “That’s a question we should ask our experts.”

It’s great that he is bringing in three female domestic violence experts, and that he gave Anna Isaacson, one of the few female NFL execs on staff, the added title of “Vice President of Social Responsibility.”

Meanwhile, the Commissioner should be awarded a Ph.D. in Not Getting It.

A full 48% of NFL fans are women. These females want to be treated as regular fans, not as a separate and distinct part of the human race relegated to wearing pink wristbands and jerseys.

And as October is almost here, the glaring underlying problems of the NFL will only multiply.

Are you ready for some pink-washing? Yup, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and the NFL has long partnered with the American Cancer Society for "A Crucial Catch" campaign. That means that throughout October, NFL games feature players, coaches and referees wearing pink garments from head to toe, and using special pink game balls and pink coins.

So kudos to Procter & Gamble’s Crest brand, for being the only advertiser to have the, well, balls, and the good sense, to nix its own Breast Cancer Awareness initiative with the NFL way ahead of that wave of pinkness. (One part of its program involved having the players wear pink mouth guards.)  At the press conference, Goodell acknowledged that the Crest promo would be “inconsistent with what’s going on here,” meaning that it promotes wellness for women while the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases remain unresolved.

The only reason that Goodell is attempting to campaign for public approval now is that several advertisers have issued critical statements. It’s been pointed out that when Anheuser-Busch has to be your guide to morality and ethics, you’re in sad shape. Pepsi was critical of the league’s actions, too, but by the end of its statement came out in support of Goodell.

 Whereas the Radisson hotel chain suspended its sponsorship of the Vikings right after Peterson’s child-injury incident was made public. And the brand has garnered a wave of positive reaction on Twitter and other social media for the move.

But by dispensing with its Crest deal, P&G is the first advertiser to put the kibosh on a huge, league-wide sponsorship. “Crest believes Breast Cancer Awareness is a critically important program to support women and their health, and, as planned, is making a $100,000 donation to the American Cancer Society,” it said in a statement. “The brand has decided to cancel on-field activation with NFL teams.”

There’s more trouble afoot:  NFL's Breast Cancer Awareness Month has drawn criticism because the league reportedly donates just a small portion of its proceeds toward cancer research.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. One thing Goodell did admit in response to the press questioning how he could have gotten his decision-making wrong so many times, was that “we didn’t have the right voices at the table.”

That’s true. And one major part of getting your “house in order” means opening up the door to the fort or the clubhouse, and letting women in. We’re half the population, half the fans. It will be a breath of fresh air. And some of us don’t even like pink.

 

20 comments about "Roger's Tree House: No Girlz Allowed".
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  1. Steven Lentz from Lifevideos.com, September 24, 2014 at 6:59 p.m.

    Thanks for a relevant post Barbara. I would not hold out much hope of Goodell opening his doors to women with open arms. If anything can cause a change it's advertisers pulling their ads since the NFL runs on money. And, the Washington Redskins could shorten their name to Reds but it would be a tough sell to Washington pols.

  2. Edward Shain from EMS Associates, September 24, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.

    The NFL's problem isn't domestic violence. It's thuggery in all of its forms. Too many Pro football players are able to steal, cheat, lie and hurt (sometimes even kill) with relative impunity. The same can be said of many NBA players.

    Framing it as just a domestic violence issue minimizes how big a problem this is (which is not to say domestic violence is a "small" issue.

    This is about entitlement and it's about money. It's about District Attorneys and cops, judges and every conceivable form of authority cooperating with the NFL (and the NBA, and sometimes MBL, but rarely hockey (to that sport's eternal credit) to show a blind eye to serious crimes.

    Oh, Wait. That's just like politics. Who'd a thunk it?

  3. Tom Scharre from The Hunch Fund, September 24, 2014 at 8:25 p.m.

    Well, except for invoking Bart Simpson's treehouse -- who is someone I hold in high regard -- as a cultural reference & cudgel, I like this column a lot. As for P&G distancing themselves from the NFL's 'Breast Cancer Awareness', I guess we could call that tit-for-tat.

  4. chuck phillips from chuck inc., September 24, 2014 at 9:36 p.m.

    phenomenal article Barbara!!

    NFL is perhaps the greediest organization of our times.

    they hide under the guise of being "do-gooders." nothing could be further from the truth.

    thanks for putting a spotlight on them.

  5. George Parker from Parker Consultants, September 24, 2014 at 10:04 p.m.

    Barbara... How about Phil Knight, CEO of Nike, pulling the endorsement plug on all the rapists, sex maniacs, child molesters, dog fighters and drug abusers he pays millions to? When the evidence against Lance Armstrong became undeniable, he was asked if he would never sponsor Armstrong again. He replied... "I never say never." What a wanker. Baron de Coubertin must be spinning in his grave... Whilst playing his tuba!
    Cheers/George

  6. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, September 24, 2014 at 10:35 p.m.

    That's true, George. Let's not forget Nike and Tiger Woods: Too Big to Fail!

  7. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, September 24, 2014 at 10:38 p.m.

    This is never ever stale. There is wrong - hitting, knifing, shooting ANYONE is wrong. Goes for college sports, too. One time and you are out. It's not complicated. But Goodall and his cronies need to be held criminally negligent as complicit partners. There will always be people, other talented people, who will be taking their place. And they can all add chains and stripes along with fines larger than their paychecks even if their kids have to live over a garage and have to take out loans for college. Period. Barbara, please do not ever stop.

  8. George Parker from Parker Consultants, September 24, 2014 at 10:54 p.m.

    Barbara... Yes indeed, I forgot about "Long Dong" Tiger. I am always amazed that whenever the press is covering a tournament, all they talk about is Tiger, even when he doesn't make the cut. I wonder if the other players are pissed? Still, I'm with George Carlin. Golf is the dumbest "game" ever.
    Cheers/George

  9. Dyann Espinosa from IntraStasis, September 25, 2014 at 5:43 a.m.

    Unfortunately, none of the players or their victims or families are reading this article. The only people who it matters to are the PR teams and the managers of these players- young men who come from a culture and community that the fans barely understand. It is not significantly different from the Roman days of contests that regarded the blood sport as something they could watch from a safe distance.

  10. Ruth Ayres from Harte-Hanks, September 25, 2014 at 12:06 p.m.

    In addition, the NFL just hired my dear friend Dawn Hudson (former President of Pepsi) as CMO. Personally I think they should have hired her as CEO but a step in the right direction. I have hopes that she will lead the organization to do more than whitewash.

  11. Tracy Hill from T. Hill Group, September 25, 2014 at 12:11 p.m.

    Gotta disagree with you on this one. Obviously nobody condones domestic violence, but the opportunists are coming out of the woodwork on this one. The NFL has over 1,700 players. In any group of people that large there are going to be some bad apples. An entire league should not be indicted because of the actions of a very few (any more than a corporation should be). I do the social media for one of the largest Seahawks fan groups in the county. Our Facebook group has nearly 3,000 members - of whom probably half are women. The subject of the supposed “scandal” has not even been raised once. The reason being: the women in our group know that for every Ray Rice on NFL teams there are way more guys in the league like Russell Wilson who visits Seattle Children’s Hospital nearly every week to bring joy to sick kids (including after the difficult loss to the Chargers). There are also guys like Richard Sherman who donates school supplies to kids in Compton that can’t afford them at the start of every school year (even while on his rookie contract). They mostly do it without the glare of cameras but the women in our group are aware. That’s the real reason why NFL ratings aren’t declining (and they won’t). People that actually follow the league can separate fact from grandstanding. After sponsors take their opportunity to get a little free publicity (an alcohol company taking a holier than thou attitude about domestic violence? C’mon!), they’ll be right back on the NFL bandwagon because that’s where the ratings are. All the NFL needs to do is wait it out.

  12. Paul Van winkle from FUNCTION, September 25, 2014 at 12:13 p.m.

    As always, right on the money. I think two other tandem issues at hand are that Goodell (and Rice and his team) have had absolutely rotten PR counsel on how to manage this mega-blowback, ignored and known to be coming for years. Goodell looks likes a Catholic bishop caught in the headlights while shuffling mega-pedophile priests around. Rice should've been shuttled immediately if not sooner to a treatment facility. And I'm sorry, but he needs to be taken away from the media, he's digging his own grave. And his wife should've had a muzzle put on her and her social media habits. A Stockholm Syndrome/"I stand by my man (for the $40 mil)" does nothing for the cause of abuse prevention. Secondly, Goodell is apparently only addressing his donor population with his tripe -- and even his mega advertisers aren't listening. Because he sucks at damage control. He needs better coaching. What he fails to grasp and be able to articulate is that his #1 job is to deliver a broad and committed fan base to those multi-million dollar clients of his. That doesn't happen without...go figure....fans. Half of which, as you and everyone else but him knows, are women. All these characters are apparently suffering second hand traumatic brain injury. At this level, they all need far better crisis management coaching. Competent media training (what to say and do to make this go away/go their way) wouldn't hurt either. Last suggestion: how about putting Rice together with Michael Vick for a Scared Straight moment, so he can understand how the food was at Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia after Vick's convictions led to 23 months in jail. Someone also please get the guy into a few Brooks Brothers suits and tell him to yank those three-pound diamonds from his ears -- he needs to stop looking the part.

  13. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, September 25, 2014 at 12:26 p.m.

    Tracy- thanks for your comment. In fact, when compared with the general population, there are fewer problems with the NFL. But obviously they are constantly in the media glare. Therefore, Goodell should have learned a way to deal with these things-- so that a guy who smokes marijuana is benched for a year but a guy who knocks his fiancé unconscious loses only two games? They need a coherent policy. And with every cover-his-ass move he makes, he digs himself in deeper.

  14. david marks from self, September 25, 2014 at 2:43 p.m.

    This enterprise of ignorance requires a village, it just does, and if change is going to happen in the NFL, all of us need to boycott every game, period. It’s simply not enough to demand Goodell quit. Even if the fifty-six known spousal abusers are banned (and that will never happen) the rules must be re written; a constitution of governance must be drafted, and until that time, we need to stop watching, send a message to the advertisers that we will not tolerate it, and maybe then, maybe, corporate sponsors will sponsor genuine action in the NFL, and that’s an action sport I can dig. This is a great piece, Barbara.

  15. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, September 25, 2014 at 3:09 p.m.

    I thought it was going to create a watershed moment for understanding gender violence. Instead, it turned into a defense of how to raise a child with punishment. Paterson's mother came out to defend him saying hitting the kid is a way of expressing love. And somehow, in my completely inexpert armchair analysis, I think that Peterson, since he does not live with his kids, somehow wants to be known to them, wants leave a "mark." He has to be reeducated about how to do that in a positive way.

  16. Adrian Lichter from Adrian Lichter, Inc., September 25, 2014 at 3:34 p.m.

    Barbara, a few things have barely been mentioned regarding Rice and Peterson (I won't use the latter's first name because he doesn't deserve such a nice name. He will always be just "Peterson").
    The 1st Rice video is more horrific than the one where he knocks out his partner. Dragging a woman's body out of an elevator like a sack of laundry, with her dress up around her ears, and just staring down at her without the slightest concern is the act of an animal. If Goodell didn't find that inhuman, it tells me he is a 44 million dollar fool. Rice should be in jail, and Goodell should be wherever they send morons.
    Peterson's case has been called a "domestic issue". So, if he whipped a neighbor's child like that he would certainly be jailed (it's a crime), but he can do terrible things to his own son and it's ok? It's not a crime? Any lawyers out there want to weigh in? If you beat a child you should do time, and I'm not a believer in letting these people ever get back onto the field (same for Michael Vick, but I lost on that one).

  17. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, September 25, 2014 at 4:04 p.m.

    Yes, Adrian, agreed. I thought the worst part was the dragging, and then leaving her FACE DOWN, and kicking her leg out of the way. He should have picked her up, cradled her in his arms, and run for help! Then, to add insult to injury, she was arrested along with him, and everyone is trying to claim that she provoked it. Then at that sham NFL hearing, they made HER appear at his side, and she APOLOGIZED for her part in the actions. He never apologized to her, only the team. That was brutal to watch, too.

  18. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, September 25, 2014 at 4:19 p.m.

    Maybe Goodell thinks the violence is good for the game, good for ratings, good for the image.

  19. George Parker from Parker Consultants, September 25, 2014 at 5:31 p.m.

    Tom... Tom...
    I am shocked, shocked I say, to think you would be so cynical. Just as NASCAR fans would never watch the five million lap races in the hope of a giant flaming crash, I am sure that NFL fans do not watch the multi-hour gladiatorial combats in the hope of seeing broken limbs and blood spurting from empty eye sockets . God, I feel better after that. Time for Jack and ribs. Isn't sport great?
    Cheers/George

  20. Kenneth Hittel from Ken Hittel, September 27, 2014 at 1:21 p.m.

    George, I am one of those (apparently only a few?) "NFL fans (who) do not watch the multi-hour gladiatorial combats in the hope of seeing broken limbs and blood spurting from empty eye sockets." Which is to say, I seldom watch games any longer b/c I can't stand to see a sport that has substituted pure brute force and hitting/slamming for what used to be (mostly) tackling. Oh, yeah, I don't stay away entirely, b/c I also still respond admiringly to the finger-tip catches on the sidelines or in the end zone, to uncannily pin-point passing, and dazzling open-field runs. There's still too much action on the field that inspires awe, not just or only shock. I pretty wish there was much less of the former than of the latter so I could give it up all together. But, you know, at the end of the day, I just don't care very much much any more -- I'm no longer really a "fan" at all.
    As for "gender-violence," let's face it, it's almost all male-on-male. Yes, indeed, Barbara, "in fact, when compared with the general population, there are fewer problems with the NFL" in re: male-on-female violence. My bet is this will in time be fairly well-cleaned up, if never eradicated, b/c commercial pressure is dictating precisely that. But the male-on-male violence of the game itself? You'd be a fool to predict that that will be mitigated any time soon. So, I will continue to drop in on a game every so often, but I doubt I'll ever really care about it ever again.

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