Goodell packs a lot of power
By Mike Klis
The Denver Post
Posted: 09/05/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT
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If Ben Roethlisberger had his rights protected by the Major League Baseball union, he would be the Pittsburgh Steelers' opening-day quarterback next Sunday.
His NFL-ordered suspension would not have been reduced from six games to four — he would not have been suspended at all.
Roethlisberger was not charged with a crime. He's had women from Lake Tahoe to Georgia make allegations of sexual misconduct against him. But the United States legal system protects people from getting accused by demanding evidence.
No such protection is afforded NFL players from the unilateral powers of commissioner Roger Goodell.
"Not only is there not an impartial arbiter, there is no standard," said Denver-based attorney Harvey Steinberg, who has gone up against the NFL's stacked judicial system and won more than most but not all of them. "Here's the standard: The commissioner, in terms of meting out punishment, is: How much bad publicity did you cause the NFL? The amount of publicity generated by Ben Roethlisberger is why the league went forward with the suspension."
The NFL's contentiously reopened collective bargaining agreement has so far been all about money, how to divvy up money and how an expanded regular-season schedule to 18 games will create more money to split.
Since the CBA talks are back on the table, perhaps the union's new leadership of DeMaurice Smith and George Atallah will want to address the commissioner's sweeping legislative powers. It was stunning how Roethlis- berger's suspension reduction was portrayed. The theme was that of mercy, that it was nice of Goodell to give him two games off for good behavior. But mercy was still defeated by the final judgment of a man who was charged with no crime.
NFL fans generally agree that Roethlisberger should have been punished for his despicable behavior. And his suspension could help the Broncos, because Roethlisberger's absence greatly diminishes the chances of the perennial playoff-contending Steelers from attaining an AFC wild-card berth. But as someone qualified to speak on behalf of jerks everywhere, we're sure glad the U.S. legal system doesn't lock up citizens on rude behavior alone.
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