Great stuff here from maryrose, who I'd say is well-qualified to speak on this subject as the commissioner of a noteworthy college conference. - Michael B. -
There are those who can eloquently speak their mind and those who are better off not speaking at all. While it is clear that James Harrison belongs a member of the latter, there was an undercurrent to his message that perhaps even he is not able to understand or articulate.
While Harrison went too far on several levels, it was interesting to hear numerous NFL players across the league joining Silverback in their disdain for Commissioner Roger Goodell. Their claim that Goodell is both judge and jury is spot on. The NFL (and all major sports leagues) is nothing more than a kangaroo court. The commissioner does what he wants when he wants, and if a player wants to appeal, guess who ends up deciding the appeal? How likely is it for a person to essentially admit he is wrong by reversing an earlier decision? The system is badly flawed and while Harrison may never become a member of the National Speakers Bureau, the reasons for his anger, not his words mind you, but his anger, are well justified.
The problem is that Roger Goodell is not really the commissioner of the NFL, though the title and job description may lead us to think as such. In reality, Mr. Goodell is the Executive Director of the NFL Owners, just as DeMaurice Smith is the Executive Director of the NFL Players. When these two football giants meet, represent, discuss or argue, each side represents their particular constituency. Neither is a "commissioner" above and apart from both the players and owners. Yet, one has the added misnomer of "commissioner" attached to his name as if he actually was such.
What the NFL (and other major sports leagues) needs is a real commissioner, one put in office by both the players and owners. I would suggest a system similar to the United States Congress. The Owners would be like the Senate, with each of the 32 clubs holding a block of 10 votes (320 total). The Players would be like the House of Representatives, controlling 320 individual votes, assigned as they saw fit, probably 10 players per team. The total 640 votes would be cast to hire and fire commissioners, while smaller joint committees could deal with matters such as salary, benefits, office operations, etc. If the players and owners were really a joint partnership as Goodell keeps saying, shouldn't this be the roof they live under?
Under this scenario, the Players would feel much more a part of the system instead of an army unto themselves. The trust level would skyrocket. Penalties and sanctions, while perhaps not always agreed with, would at least be accepted as fair and neutral. On a larger level, labor negotiations would run much smoother and probably with far less animosity. Instead of having a person claiming to represent the game while actually representing the Owners, you would have an added person who actually did represent the game on the whole. Moreover, said person, a real commissioner, would be disarming to both sides during disputes and negotiations. A real commissioner would magnetize both sides toward the middle instead of the current Hatfield-McCoy model.
I might not live long enough to see this model, but I can actually see it coming to fruition one day. And when (if) it does, people like James Harrison might not say what they say and feel what they feel. I don't condone Harrison's words - don't get me wrong here - but at the very root of his anger there is a story to be told. That story is a hated commissioner, paid by one side and not the other, who is not really a fair and impartial commissioner at all.