Guilty Or Innocent? Perception Is All That Matters In The NFL

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Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (right) alongside NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after beating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Why is it then that Goodell’s BFF and owner of only one shirt Robert Kraft would allow multiple offenders on his team but come running to the leagues defense and discuss a player who has never been on his team? Because of perception and calming of public outcry.

The video was appalling, and what Rice did was wrong. However, what did the league think would be on that video? It was obvious Rice hit the woman (it’s not like he knocked her unconscious by sneezing too hard). So why the drastic change from two games to erased from memory?

Perception. It is all that matters in the NFL and it can be a scary thing if the league does not find some common balance. Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson were both accused of terrible things and while Hardy was originally found guilty, the decision was reversed and he has no record of domestic violence.

For those unaware, the common belief is that Hardy paid a woman off, who had accused him of domestic violence. The details are sickening, but if the woman was willing to take money and go away, it does bring up questions of accuracy in her accusations. What should matter most of all however, is the simple fact that whether Hardy did, or did not break the law, he has no record.

If you or if I were accused of a crime, and it was removed from our record, would you be punished by your employer? I don’t believe I would be, yet Hardy was put on the commissioner’s exempt list for fifteen games in 2014. The league determined he could not play because he was going through the legal process. Then afterwards decided Hardy had to miss ten more games, an arbitrary number they pulled out with no basis.

Aug 8, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson rides on a golf cart prior to the start of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Again perception had to be front and center for the league and even the team that let Hardy leave in free agency, the Carolina Panthers. Team owner Jerry Richardson stood firmly on his high-horse after Hardy signed with Dallas, saying he personally decided to let Hardy walk because of his firm stance against domestic violence.

"“We do the right things,” Richardson said when asked why he made that call."

The problem with Richardson’s statement is he is wrong. Dead wrong. The Carolina Panthers knew what the man nicknamed the “Kraken” was charged with. He knew he was found guilty and that Hardy’s legal team was appealing the verdict. Armed with all that information, Mr. Righteous himself allowed Hardy to play in the season opener for Carolina and only benched the pass rusher when public outcry became overwhelming.

As for Peterson, who later plead no contest to child abuse charges for hitting his kid with a switch, he also was put on the exempt list. His case was different as the Vikings originally stood by him, but stopped supporting him when financial endorsers got upset.

He too was placed on this asinine list and not allowed to play. Then the only way Peterson was able to get the league to act on his reinstatement was by suing the league in court, which of course he won because the NFL is not a legal authority as they believe themselves to be.

Roger Goodell and the league have allowed their desire to satisfy the public opinion to outweigh freedoms that Americans receive. Goodell invented an “exempt” list that no one ever heard of before. What this really is however is more of a purgatory. The players sit there, unable to move before Goodell decides which way they will go from there.

Next: More Goodell Mishandling Due To Perception