Sports

NFL’s integrity is just plain laughable

Puh-leeze.Whether the punishment levied on Tom Brady and the Patriots was excessively harsh and has as much to do with the team?s past transgressions as it does with the current violations doesn?t really matter. As King of the Land, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could hit Brady and the Pats with virtually any punishment he saw fit.Judging by punishments he?s meted out in the past, the commissioner has a difficult time adjudicating what is actually appropriate.For the sake of argument, let?s concede Brady?s and the Pats? guilt on this. (Now, remember, I said for the sake of argument.)What is truly laughable is that in the statement Goodell and the NFL released on Monday, the punishments are justified by this:?We reached these decisions after extensive discussion with (NFL executive vice president for football operations) Troy Vincent and many others,” Goodell said. “We relied on the critical importance of protecting the integrity of the game and the thoroughness and independence of the Wells report.”I?m presuming Goodell issued that statement with a straight face.In the statement, which included excerpts of letters from Vincent to Brady and the Patriots, the word “integrity” is used nine times.But it?s hard to defend something that doesn?t exist. Integrity? In the NFL? Where to start?How about with the players the NFL has sacrificed to concussions. Last month a federal judge gave final approval to the settlement of a class-action lawsuit between the NFL and thousands of former players.The agreement provides an average of $190,000 and as much as $5 million per retiree for serious medical conditions associated with repeated head trauma. The NFL expects 6,000 of nearly 20,000 retired players to suffer from Alzheimer?s disease or moderate dementia someday.The league has long faced accusations that it hid the risks of repeated concussions to get players back onto the field. More than 200 players opted out of the settlement and may sue the NFL separately.Always in the background is the suspected use of steroids and human growth hormones.Or how about the NFL?s lack of a farm system in favor of using the NCAA as its developmental program, thereby putting players onto college campuses who otherwise would have no business being there, taking such low-level courses that any diplomas they generate aren?t worth the paper they are printed on. Hello, Jameis Winston and Florida State.Then we can move on to the veteran degenerates. Ray Rice, who beat a woman unconscious and was initially given a two-game suspension. Adrian Peterson, who beat his 4-year-old son with a wooden stick so severely the boy was left bloody with severe welts on his back, legs, buttocks, genitals, and ankles. Initially the Minnesota Vikings deactivated Peterson for one game before an arbitrator ruled the league could keep him on the commissioner?s exempt list. Goodell reinstated him April 16.Let?s not forget Ray Lewis, who was involved – to what degree is still uncertain – in the stabbing deaths of two men in Atlanta in 2000. Lewis has since become one of the faces of the NFL as an ESPN analyst.And finally, there?s the relentless objectification of women that is tacitly supported by the league. The cheerleaders who look like they are half a step away from dancing with poles are just one example.So, call the punishment for Deflategate whatever you want, Roger. Tell us you?re finally getting back at the Patriots. Tell us you want to flex your muscle. Tell us you?re jealous of Tom Brady because he?s so cute and he?s married to a supermodel. Tell us you need to polish your image as a tough guy after the wimpy punishments you gave Rice and Peterson. Tell us you just felt like it.Whatever.Just don?t tell us this is about integrity.We?re not that dumb.Maureen Mullen can be reached at mmullen@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MaureenAMullen

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