Count Drew Brees among those in favor of taking some power from Commissioner Roger Goodell and removing him from his role as judge, jury and executioner when punishing NFL players.
“I think that’s a very good thing. I think anytime somebody has unilateral decisions over the decision and appeals process, there’s no system of checks and balances,” the Saints quarterback said. “I think this, with the addition of experts in the fields, in which these policies — new policies will be created and certainly oversight of those policies, the actual handing down of punishment and handling the appeals process, if you got the (NFL Players Association), the NFL front office, independent experts involved in those decisions, you feel like the right decision will be made every time.”
It appears that is the direction the league is heading. Goodell has recently come under fire for his handling of Ray Rice, who knocked out his wife, Janay, in an elevator at a casino in Atlantic City, and initially only suspended him for two games. Rice was suspended indefinitely and released by the Ravens after video was released of the act.
In a recent news conference, the commissioner admitted that he mishandled the situation and vowed that the league will “get it right” moving forward. To get it right, Goodell specifically said the league will make changes to the NFL Conduct Policy.
On Tuesday, Goodell and executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent met with 11 former players to identify possible changes to the personal conduct policy. More meetings are expected to take place and among the changes that have been floated as a possible change is that the league will turn to committee to oversee conduct issues.
Goodell currently decides and hands down punishment to players and is responsible for overseeing the appeals process.
“You want due process, you want fair process, you want transparent process,” Brees said. “Too many times, especially over the last few years, punishment has been handed down and nobody has really seen the evidence except the league office, supposedly. Decisions were made. ‘Hey, trust us.’ At the end of the day did the public see any of the facts, did the accused see any of the facts? I think in most cases no.”
Throughout the Rice backlash, many have pointed out that Goodell’s claim of being unaware of what was on the video was a hypocritical stance for him to take. In punishing the Saints in 2012 for the bounty scandal, he told team officials that ignorance of the existence of an alleged bounty program was not an acceptable defense.
The fact Goodell has pleaded ignorance and is using it as his defense in this instance has not been lost on members of the Saints.
“The same things I’ve heard, the quotes that were thrown out at members of the Saints organization in regards to why they were being punished — things such as ‘ignorance is no excuse’ and ‘if you didn't know, you should have known’ — would absolutely apply in this case,” Brees said. “Except the roles are reversed and it's going back at commissioner Goodell and the league office.”
So the question now is if Goodell should be removed from his perch as commissioner for his mishandling of this case. Many Saints fans have pointed to Goodell’s mishandling of this case and his defense for doing so as grounds for impeachment.
If the players feel the same way, they are not currently willing to speak on the topic.
“That’s not up to me. I’m more focused on the solution as far as creating and maintaining policies that you can be consistent with, open with, transparent with and you're bringing together all parties that should be involved,” Brees said.
The NFL recently hired Richard Mueller, the former head of the FBI, to conduct an independent investigation into the league and its handling of the Rice case. The NFLPA announced Tuesday that it will conduct its own investigation of the league and the Ravens.
If Goodell were to be removed from his position, something damaging would have to turn up in one of those investigations before serious action is taken. For now, it appears he has the support of the league owners.
In the interim, players such as Brees are simply satisfied with the fact that Goodell will lose some power when it comes to punishing players and that a more fair and balanced system appears to soon be coming.
“I think this has been a long time coming,” Brees said. “It’s really unfortunate that all of this had to happen for this to transpire, for this to become evident. I think that a lot of us on the players association side have known for a long time and have pushed for a long time. Now the public knows, now the fan community knows. It’s the right thing.”