Leading Off

Despite Roger Goodell and NFL’s problems, fans crave football

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell arrives at federal court Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, in New York. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Goodell are set to explain to a judge why a controversy over underinflated footballs at last season’s AFC championship game is spilling into a new season.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell arrives at federal court Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, in New York. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Goodell are set to explain to a judge why a controversy over underinflated footballs at last season’s AFC championship game is spilling into a new season. The Associated Press

Year after year, Roger Goodell has had to take cover behind the NFL shield he swore to protect when he became commissioner in 2006.

He had mud thrown at him for being too light on Michael Vick, suspending the quarterback in 2009 upon his return to the NFL from state prison after pleading guilty to running a dog-fighting operation.

Another year, he was accused of being too harsh on the New Orleans Saints in “Bountygate,” suspending a number of players – as well as coach Sean Payton for the 2012 season – for head-hunting.

He felt the wrath last summer when he initially suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for just two games after Rice knocked out his then-fiancée in a hotel elevator.

Now he’s in a nasty legal scrum with New England quarterback Tom Brady, arguably the league’s most popular player, who wants his four-game suspension overturned and the Patriots’ two draft choices returned, reversing the punishment from the “Deflategate” scandal.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, 206 players were arrested – some repeatedly – during one 260-day period for domestic violence, gun violations, drugs, DUI’s and other infractions.

All under Goodell’s watch.

But despite all the figurative rocks, mud and dirty accusations slung at Goodell and the NFL shield, nothing seems to leave a mark. The league and its brand are as popular, if not more so, than ever.

Despite itself – despite Goodell – the NFL is still king. That was obvious Sunday when a record audience of 11 million (6.9 rating) watched the Hall of Fame Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings.

In the court of public opinion, what happens off the field in the NFL stays off the field. Fans want football. They want to see their favorite teams, their favorite players and dream of a championship season.

They want the NFL, with or without Goodell.

Victor Contreras (916) 326-5527, @sacbeevictor

Playbook

  • WHAT TO WATCH: USA Basketball, White vs. Blue, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2: The scrimmage will resemble an NBA All-Star Game with little defense, but the Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay will still want to stand out.
  • QUOTEABLE: “All this stuff is coming out now – it looks ugly for Roger Goodell. I don’t trust him as the commissioner of the National Football League anymore. So to answer your question, yeah, I’d fire him.” – Tiki Barber, former NFL running back
  • ON THIS DATE: On Aug. 13, 1979, Lou Brock of the Cardinals got his 3,000 hit.
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