Baltimore Sun

Goodell cares about money, not integrity

- By Paul Newberry

After Donald Sterling’s racist ramblings were exposed to the world, the NBA quickly banished him.

Sure, the forced sale of the Clippers made Sterling even richer, but it sent a clear signal that such behavior would not be tolerated, even from the guys with the biggest checkbooks.

Then there’s the NFL, which seems content to let its bad boy owners slide with nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

Tampering with some of the game’s biggest names? Suggesting it would be a good idea to lose games intentiona­lly?

No problem, says the league which likes to throw around the word “integrity” at every opportunit­y.

In the eyes of Commission­er Roger Goodell, some mandatory vacation time, a fine that roughly amounts to loose change in the sofa, and surrenderi­ng a couple of draft picks should be enough to smooth things over.

That’s exactly what Goodell imposed this week on Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, whose conduct was so reckless that it wouldn’t have been out of line to shove him out the door.

Of course, in its version of the just-before-the-weekend news dump, the NFL brilliantl­y unveiled the case against

Ross while most fans and pundits were fixated on what’s next for quarterbac­k Deshaun Watson, who received a six-game suspension for multiple allegation­s of sexual misconduct during massages. The NFL appealed, which could have sent the case to Goodell for harsher, more appropriat­e punishment, but he timidly handed it off to an outside arbiter. The Watson case is bad enough. Ross’ shenanigan­s were also worthy of outrage.

But Goodell would prefer we all just move along from a week of disturbing revelation­s and get to what’s really important: a season that convenient­ly began Thursday night with the Hall of Fame exhibition game in Canton, Ohio.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! The great and powerful commish has spoken!!

By now, it should be crystal clear to everyone that Goodell couldn’t care less about integrity as long as the league’s coffers — and his own — keep growing.

Sure, he’ll swing into action when a player who hasn’t been with his team all season dares venture onto a casino app to place legal bets on NFL games. Never mind that the league has fully embraced sports gambling and has no problem cashing all the massive checks it brings in. Calvin Ridley’s wagering, which he readily admitted to with no suggestion that it impacted games, led to his suspension for at least the 2022 season and means the Falcons receiver has no chance to receiving his $11.1 million salary until he’s reinstated.

Compare that with Ross’ case.

Sure, the Dolphins will be hurt by the loss of a first-round pick next year and a third-round pick in 2024, but the remainder of the sanctions were laughable. Ross was fined $1.5 million, roughly 0.018% of his net worth of $8.2 billion and a blip compared to the salary Ridley isn’t receiving. Ross also was suspended from his team through Oct. 17, meaning he won’t be around for the first six games of the regular season — at least 11 games fewer than Ridley.

Of course, Flores and anyone else who has paid a lick of attention to the Goodell regime should have known that Ross would get away with it. Look no further than Commanders owner Dan Snyder, who has faced numerous allegation­s of a toxic workplace environmen­t without facing any real punishment.

In a league that truly embraced integrity, Snyder would already be out the door and Ross wouldn’t be far behind. Goodell’s sending a different message. Are you ready for some football?!

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